Q: Please start by introducing yourself, your name, your pronouns, where you are from and where you are now.
I’m Bri Scalesse, my pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m originally from Connecticut, that’s where I grew up, but currently living in New York City...I love it so much. I really, really love New York. I've always wanted to be here.
Q: You are a writer, a model, a TikTok star...when did you discover your passion for creative outlets like these?
So I started writing in little notebooks when I was little. I remember I'd write little songs and little poems. So I think writing was really my first creative love. But I always loved anything that was artistic and just getting those emotional juices flowing. And then I started writing in college more seriously, my major was creative writing in undergrad and then my masters was in nonfiction writing.
So writing has just always kind of been a part of me. But modeling is something I always wanted to do. I loved America's Next Top Model so much, that kind of got my love for modeling sparked. Also, just wanting to see someone like me so badly on those shows or on runways or in magazines. I think writing was an easier path; It took me longer to figure out how to model, there's really no guide for that.
And then TikTok was just fun during quarantine, that's when I started. It was just something to bring me joy. I just felt like all the videos were fun and lighthearted, and just put me in a good mood at a time that was so weird.
It was definitely a source of relief and escapism for a lot of people. And now you have over 400,000 followers and 7 million likes on the platform.
Yea, it’s crazy! It’s just fun.
Q: You are also a disability advocate. Why is it so important for you to share your own story and experiences with the world?
I think being little and not having representation was a really big deal for me. So I wanted to be the representation in a lot of ways that I didn't see, and to make sure that little girls and little boys didn't feel alone in what they were going through. I didn't really have anyone with disabilities around me. Then when I came to New York City, I found an amazing group of friends in chairs and just kind of found my community, and really opened myself up to being disabled. I don't think that I was comfortable even with the word disability, until I was in my twenties and really let myself love all of who I am and embrace the disabled community. I wanted to share and be vulnerable and open about my life and what we experience every day for able-bodied people to understand, and then also for disabled people to just feel like they have a voice, an outlet, like a friend.
Do you get messages on social media from people that are looking to you as that representation? Does it feel like a full-circle moment?
Yes, the first time I got messages felt so surreal. I had reached out to Jillian Mercado, who was really the first model to be in a chair, and people like that when I was younger and the few times I would see someone in a chair just meant so much to me. So to be that for someone else and to have young people with disabilities, especially people in chairs, reach out to me made my heart so full. It definitely feels like a full circle thing, but it also feels like something I want to continue. I have a constant desire to be there for my community in a way that I wish there was for me when I was younger. There are moments when the vulnerability can feel intense, but it does feel good when someone says ‘I experienced that too’ or ‘I feel less alone’ because that's something I didn't have when I was younger.
Q: What makes you feel empowered—when you’re feeling low, what lifts you up?
On a personal level, dance and creativity and music. Going out like in the past always feels amazing, but then also combining that with finding my community here. Especially finding women in chairs I love so much. The most empowering is when we all go out together, it is such a beautiful feeling. I remember being so scared to be seen with someone else in a chair when I was younger. Something I think a lot of people go through is shunning disability almost, and then coming full circle into it and finding their place. It's such an amazing feeling, like we want to all be seen together just living our best lives. Empowerment for me massively comes from my community. They’re so important to who I am.
Q: Let’s talk about beauty. What is your makeup story? When did you first start wearing makeup and expressing yourself through beauty?
I've loved makeup for a really long time. I remember being little and watching my mom and my aunts put on makeup, particularly lipstick. I remember it being a big thing when I was a little girl. I started wearing it really young. Oh, eight or nine I started experimenting with it. My grandma wouldn't let me go to school with crazy amounts of makeup on, but she let me put a little bit of makeup on before school...Before high school especially, I would put a lot of effort into makeup and I just thought it was so fun. I would sit down for like an hour, two hours and do a whole makeup look.
Q: What beauty product makes you feel most empowered?
I remember my friends and I always talking about “if you only have one item of makeup or could only wear one thing,” for a long time it's always been mascara, but then also recently blush. Those are kind of the top two. Mascara is always my go-to answer.
Q: Have you tried clean beauty before?
I definitely have tried to become more aware of clean beauty with time. Thinking about not only what we put into our bodies, but what we put on our bodies and what we put on our skin. Things like that are so important for the longevity of our health and faces and bodies. It is not just about the look, but about what it's doing for us. While it may be beautifying us in the moment, it's important to know what it is doing for us. Just taking care of yourself, taking care of your body, taking care of your health as well as beauty, and merging those two together. I think that's a really beautiful thing.
Q: We are so honored to include you in imayla’s #TheFaceOfBeauty campaign. Can you talk about your experience on set and wearing the products?
I had so much fun on the shoot from the start, and to top it off the makeup was amazing. It's a look that I've never done or tried, and I really really liked it—but especially my eyes, I was obsessed with the way that my eyes looked. I think as far as splurging, I always gravitate toward palettes. I love the palette that was used for my eyes so much because I love neutrals. The look came together so well I was like “I want to do this every day.” I came back from the shoot and my door woman was like “your makeup is so fire” so that was a really cool feeling, to have someone see it and like it. I felt like myself but amplified, and I think that was a really cool and beautiful thing. Everything was me, but just sparklier.
Q: What does #EmpoweringIndividualism mean to you? What do you hope to express through this campaign?
To me, #EmpoweringIndividualism means finding beauty and joy in all of who you are. Even the things that society doesn’t typically think are beautiful, or don't typically think are “normal.” Just really finding that power in your differences. Something that makes me feel so empowered is when I’m really caring for all of myself and loving all of myself. I would love for people to see that beauty means so much more than the box that we've put it in for so long. Beauty is accepting all of your differences.