Savage X Fenty is once again setting the precedent for inclusive casting

That words like ‘representation’, ‘diversity’, or god forbid ‘sustainability’, have been ransacked of their meaning, is not mere conjecture. Brands increasingly adopt the language of activism into vague, tokenistic marketing speak, with slippery attempts to contribute towards the greater good. 

Savage x Fenty, however, has consistently proved an anomaly – seemingly building the label from a genuine bedrock of inclusivity. From brilliant, body diverse fashion shows, which surely heralded the fall of the Victoria’s Secret Angel, to booking campaign models with prosthetic legs, Rihanna’s lingerie label has set an example for the rest of the fashion industry since its inception in 2018. Now, fans of the brand are celebrating as Savage’s latest drop features Lyric Mariah Heard, an LA model with a visible limb disability.

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“Obviously representation only goes so far, but when your disability is on the rare side and you’re used to never seeing anyone else who looks like you, stuff like this feels really nice. Thanks for hiring models with limb differences, @rihanna,” writer Kim Kelly posted to Twitter on Wednesday, after spotting Savage’s latest collection online. 

Since being approached by a photographer on Instagram, Heard has modelled for Dolls Kill, Pretty Little Thing, SKIMS, and Tommy Hilfiger. Rihanna has, however, worked with many disabled models before. Last year the singer booked Kiera Marshall, who lost her leg in a drunk driving accident. In conversation with Health last September, Heard reflects on her hard won battle for self-confidence. “Blonde girls don’t walk around explaining why they’re blonde,” she says. “You don’t have to explain why you have small fingers, and if you want to, do that, and write your story the way you want to write it. It’s your life, it’s your body.”

As if aniticpating the future, the model also speaks on the inherent power of lingerie, the impact of which is even more pertinent a year on. “It makes me feel a new level of confidence and shows my body in full everything – stretch marks, cellulite, surgery scars, here it is. I love all of it and I try to put that forth in my lingerie photos. I’m not selling sex, I’m selling confidence.”