Selma Blair wasn’t using a customized cane as a prop when she walked onto the red carpet in an ethereal gown by Ralph & Russo at the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty. Instead, the 46-year-old actress, known for her roles in Legally Blonde and Cruel Intentions, needed it to walk independently into the spotlight. In her first public appearance since announcing she has multiple sclerosis, she told reporters, “It took a lot to come out here.”
Blair originally announced her diagnosis last October, on Instagram, at the encouragement of the costume designer Allisa Swanson. Swanson works with her on the upcoming Netflix series Another Life. “She carefully gets my legs in my pants, pulls my tops over my head, buttons my coats and offers her shoulder to steady myself.…I have a job. A wonderful job. I am disabled,” wrote the actress. Blair says she has had symptoms of the degenerative illness, which damages the brain and spinal cord and affects the nervous symptom, for 15 years. “I am in the thick of it,” she wrote, “but I hope to give some hope to others. And even to myself.…But if you see me, dropping crap all over the street, feel free to help me pick it up.”
The first time Blair appeared with a cane was in a heartfelt post on Instagram after spending Christmas night with the Kardashian, West, and Jenner families.
Blair’s afterparty appearance reverberated far beyond just the usual realms of celebrity and fashion. One Twitter user, Lev Mirov, posted about Blair’s cane because he owns the same one himself. He wrote about the practical necessity of using a cane and how this one in particular is both affordable and durable. Most importantly, it’s necessary for safety when walking.
Of course, Blair’s red-carpet-ready cane was customized by her creative friends. The celebrity “man-icurist” Tom Bachik garnished it with a monogram and an actual pink diamond. The cane had already been outfitted with personalized patent leather and stitching. “I burst into tears,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “These gifts to get me through.”
Blair held her cane like a shield, proudly acknowledging her MS and her beauty. There has long been a void of styles for those with disabilities. Hopefully Blair’s walk on the red carpet will not only have the Internet discussing inclusion in fashion but designers thinking about how they can be more proactive.
Fans on Twitter had a lot to say about her appearance. Some had concerns that the articles covering this event came off as inspo porn.
But others were just glad to have the disability community represented in such a high-profile way.