Wheelchair Rapunzel | How I gained 20k followers in a year and a few months
Lately, my media presence has been growing and it’s been a surreal and unexpected experience. In a year in a half I went from posting interesting (horrible) content on an account no one knew about, to receiving 2 million views on a documentary feature, being on Daily Mail, having over 20 thousand Instagram followers, and having an up and coming online shop.
My DM’s, e-mail, and Facebook have been blowing up with such great messages and a LOT of questions. I get several FAQs that I’m going to answer in this article!
Q: How did you get so many followers?
A: In 1.5 years I’ve grown my Instagram platform from 0 to over 20k followers. I attribute this to my dazzling smile and raunchy wit that can’t be considered anything less than charming (follow me and you’ll see). HOWEVER, a more realistic answer is.. well it’s several things. I believe that people have a deep inherent curiosity to want to know more about things that are different. People want something to be hopeful and excited about, and I think I provide that in a way. I’m not afraid to post the not cutest photos or say those things that everyone’s thinking, but doesn’t say out loud. I’m authentic. In a world where social media is taking over a large part of our daily lives, I think people really appreciate that. People also, despite all odds, really like to see me naked, so there’s that. I’ve cracked Instagram’s secret, just be naked ALL THE TIME & post about it.
Q: How do you stay so positive?
A: I hate this question, sorry majority of people that message me. Do people expect me to be a miserable crusty biotch because living with a disability is so horrible? The answer is yes, they do. Or else they wouldn’t ask that question. I’m not anymore positive than your average 25 year old. I can be a crusty biotch when normal things happen like my car won’t start... oh wait, I can’t drive one of those. I meant, when I forget to charge my wheelchair and I have to be on turtle mode all day. You know, regular things. Society has done an eloquent job via inspiration porn to make us think that disabled people are extraordinary because they’re overcoming something normal people couldn’t. Truth bomb time: we’re not overcoming anything. We are just living the way we know how to. Just because it looks different doesn’t make it extraordinary. People act like we have a choice in the matter. Newsflash, we don’t. Unless you’re one of those trans-abled people where you identify as disabled when you’re not. In that case, no comment.
Q: How are you so confident?
A: Confidence can be shown in many ways, and mine comes through in my writing, which is convenient when you’re a blogger. When I first posted a risqué photo on Instagram, I refreshed my feed by the mili-second as I held my breathe waiting for mean comments about my disabled body. The opposite happened. It was receiving a ton of love and support and it seems like that’s the content that resonates with people the most. My confidence grew when I started realizing that I need to do things for ME and not always having to feel the need to please other people. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, so when I started doing things I truly love, I gained confidence in myself. Also, seeing other people spearheading the body positive movement with the lovely diverse bodies I see on my feed makes me confident as well. I’ve been unlearning everything society has ingrained in my head about beauty and reteaching myself that diversity is beauty. That realization / fact was truly freeing as hell.
Q: How did you start your online shop?
I get this question probably the most and it’s quite a long story. Basically, I graduated college with a degree in disability studies and moved to Chicago to find a job in a field I excelled in greatly, to no avail. I started abusing alcoholic and going down a very ugly path because I felt worthless and unwanted even though I knew I’d be a fire employee. I had a medical scare that changed my entire perspective and I started wheelchair_rapunzel. I deleted my old Instagram that was comprised of low res selfies with dashboard confessional lyrics under it and started sharing my life with having SMA. It was gaining traction and that’s when I decided I needed to make money before my bills piled up any further. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and decided to take that coupled with my ability to connect with people and my passion for disability advocacy and opened up my online shop. I don’t have a marketing, design, or business degree; so it’s been a huge learning process. I could not have started my shop without its initial support — everyone I knew personally was proudly buying and wearing my merch to support me and still do. Now, I believe my design game has stepped up and I get orders from all over the world.
My platform and support you give my online shop allows me to pay the bills and keep doing what I love, so thank you!
Hopefully I answered some FAQs!