Sophie-Anne Onland is a public speaker and an advocate for representation and diversity. She was born with a shorter left leg and has been walking with a lower leg prosthesis all her life. Although accepting her prosthesis was not an easy process, her 'difference' has become her strength. By sharing her story with a larger audience, she wants to help other people to see beauty from a different perspective. Sophie-Anne created a midnight blue velvet smoking jacket and paired it with a satin waistcoat and trousers, to easily roll up the trousers to proudly show her prosthesis.
What was the turning point for you when you decided to show your prosthetic leg, instead of hiding it?
That was actually the moment when I found a new prosthetist: Frank Jol. He creates prosthetic legs for the entire Olympic team. He immediately said that my former prosthesis looked like a real leg, but that I couldn't walk more than 100 meters with it, it hurts, and it's heavy. At that time, I didn't want anything flashy; I wanted a prothesis that looked as much as possible like a real leg to conform to societal norms. He suggested making a trial prosthesis and discuss the appearance of it later. On my first day with my new prosthesis it was 35 degrees Celsius. Normally I would wear long pants to hide my leg. However, I decided to wear a short skirt. I thought I would go straight home to put on long pants, but with every step, I felt more confident and more like myself. I could finally be who I wanted to be. I didn't have to hide anymore. That's also when I started looking for role models, because I didn't know anyone who looked like me. I found the Brazilian influencer Paola Antonini. She has a prosthesis and wears all the colors of the rainbow. This was an extra motivation for me: if she can do it, then I can too.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to body positivity and representation?
My goal is to create more representation and visibility for women with a lower leg prosthesis or with a disability. To this day, representation is still lacking in the general media landscape such as with fashion brands, on television, streaming services or social media. When growing up I missed a role model that I could identify with. A role model can inspire you, but it can also change your perspective on what is considered “normal”. On one hand I want to achieve this by sharing my own personal story, but I also believe in representation and visibility without emphasizing the difference. If I see a billboard featuring a woman with a prosthesis without highlighting the difference, then my goal is achieved.
What makes you feel most empowered?
I feel empowered when I'm on stage and I can inspire people with my story, and show that despite having a prosthesis, you can still lead a happy life and feel confident. I experience the same when I share my story on social media. I often receive messages from people with a prosthesis, telling me that because of my story, they now feel confident enough to show their prosthesis. That's when I truly feel empowered.
What does fashion mean to you?
For me, fashion has become increasingly important since I started speaking on stage. Fashion has also become a way for me to showcase my leg. My glitter prosthesis is for example a sort of fashion statement. It immediately breaks the silence because people instantly see that there is something different. I enjoy putting on nice clothes around it and use my prosthesis as an extra fashionable element. Fashion, for me, is a way to express myself and literally show how I look. It's an extension of my identity.
For your Mesure creation, you chose a midnight blue velvet and satin fabric to craft a smoking jacket and matching trousers and waistcoat. Could you explain your choice?
Well, it was an easy choice, because dark blue is my favourite color. What I like about this look is that I can wear the jacket or waistcoat separately with jeans or a skirt when I'm at a more low-key event. But when I attend fancier events, I immediately dress the part with the smoking jacket and satin trousers. I'm really happy with it. It fits me perfectly.