Black History Month: Mama Cax

Happy Monday all! 

Today we are continuing our celebration of the work, contributions, and lives of Black Disability Activists. 

On February 8 Google Doodle honored Haitian American model and disability rights activist Mama Cax. Mama Cax is best known for shattering expectations around beauty. 

Mama Cax was born Cacsmy Brutus on November 20, 1989, in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  At age 14, she was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer. As a result of her cancer, she underwent an unsuccessful hip replacement surgery at age 16 which led to the amputation of her right leg. At first, Mama Cax was depressed and struggled to accept herself with a prosthetic leg, as she wanted it to look realistic and match her skin tone.  

Thus began a long journey of body acceptance for Mama Cax, focused primarily on her disability and the appearance of her new prosthetic leg. Eventually, Mama Cax began embracing her disability’s outward visibility and donned her now famous brightly-painted prosthetic pieces.

By 2017, Mama Cax had made a name for herself in online fashion and body positivity spaces, and would sign her first advertising campaign with Wet N Wild cosmetics that year. Over the next two years, she’d land several more campaigns, be on the cover of Teen Vogue(Opens in a new tab), and walk the New York Fashion Week runway. Cax also leaned into her athleticism — she went on to complete the New York City Marathon.

As the body positivity movement grew,  Mama Cax noticed that Black women and women with disabilities were underrepresented in social media. She began posting regularly and advocating for inclusivity in fashion and using social media to discuss her body insecurities.

Mama Cax’s life was tragically cut short by medical complications in 2019. The model and activist is remembered for expanding the image of what people with disabilities should be or look like.

The vibrant Doodle artwork is a reflection of her bright life. The artwork highlights the many facets of her identity including her Haitian heritage, her NYC hometown, and her fashion career with her prosthetic incorporated into the look. In creating her Doodle, the artist Lynn Lucien called on a shared history between her and Mama Cax — both of them having ties to Brooklyn and Haitian childhoods — as well as the model’s fluorescent individuality. “I understood Mama Cax to be resilient, vibrant, funny,” she said. “She left a legacy for Haitians, and many people in the disability community, and I want people to see her light.”

See the Google Doodle and learn more about Mama Cax here.  

Have a peace filled week.  

Karen Nielson

Disability Resource Center, UCSC 

Last modified: Oct 03, 2023