By Lori Perkins
New York Fashion Week has changed since I was a young woman. We now have many more nonwhite models, as well as a diversity of gender expression and even some acknowledgment of physical ability, as well as size and shape. But this year a survivor of metastatic breast cancer (a disease I know too much about) walked the Fashion Week runway exposing her scars and she was beautiful and empowered and I was just moved to share this image with my world.
Sexuality educator, activist and breast cancer survivor Ericka Hart walked the New York Fashion Week runway at Jacob Reis Park in Queens wearing a red one-piece swimsuit and pulling the top down to expose her post-mastectomy scars and reconstructed breasts. 'We should be able to exist in our bodies the ways we want to,’ she commented.
She added, "Even as many Black queer trans non binary fat and disabled folks are granted access to a space that was created to exclude us, we have to still critique it and consider why we even want access to that space. And who am I if I don't or can't participate."
The site of the runway is a queer gathering place in New York where bathers often go topless. Hart noted this by saying that it felt natural for her to walk part of the show with her breasts exposed. She added that her walk was homage to the beachgoers at Riis. "I am always topless," she said. "I'm pretty comfortable, but the nerves are always there.”
Hart has bared her scars before—at AfroPunk, fashion shows or in magazines. She captured the moment in an empowering Instagram post, "They say a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Hart told Allure Magazine in 2017, that her mother died of breast cancer at 38 and that she was 28 when she felt her own lump, leading to the diagnosis of bilateral breast cancer followed by a double mastectomy and reconstruction. "Because my scars run across the breast, I have reclaimed these scars as my nipples," she explained.
"I was thinking, you know, I want to go topless at AfroPunk, and I want to go topless because I want to raise awareness about breast cancer. There's not an image of a Black breast cancer patient… let me go and educate. I want people to check their breasts. I'm gonna take this off and I want to be seen. I felt so attractive, I felt so sexy, and people took pictures of me and people came up to me and asked, like, 'What happened to you?' And that was super alarming to me. Like, how come you don't know what this looks like? And then I remembered: We don’t talk about it. There are no images of it."