Aimee Mullins

by Claudia Herrera Hudson from Los Angeles, California in United States

“The functioning human body is beautiful.”
— Aimee Mullins

143802Aimee MullinsRubenstein, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Through her sheer presence and unrelenting spirit, Aimee Mullins is challenging the definitions of physical beauty and ability. In doing so, she is not only celebrating her own achievements, but more so, celebrating her ability to defy conventional public mindset, simply through her honest, open personality, and her incredible talent.

Born in 1976 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and growing up between Pennsylvania and County Clare, Ireland, Aimee Mullins has overcome challenges from day one. She was born with fibular hemimelia, a limb anomaly wherein there is partial or total absence of the fibula (shin) bones. She had both legs amputated below the knee when she was only a year old. (Without her legs, she could still learn to walk with artificial ones. With her legs, she would have been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.) Her amazing spirit and drive helped compensate for the portion of her body she was missing.

Despite her physical limitations, she pushed herself physically and mentally to succeed. In high school she participated in numerous sports, including softball and skiing.

While in high school, she heard about a track meet for people with disabilities, and was actually bothered by the idea, as she felt the athletes were limiting themselves by defining themselves by their disabilities. She was accustomed to competing against ‘able-bodied’ athletes in other sports, and initially was reluctant to join the alternative meet. Never one to turn down an opportunity, though, she signed up for the meet, not expecting much of an actual challenge even though she had never run competitively.

She was surprised upon arriving, when she realized that she was the only athlete wearing wooden legs. The rest of the athletes had on metal, shock-absorbant legs that she didn’t even know existed. Not to mention that all the other athletes had at least one normal leg. Instead of deterring her determination, though, it forced her to push herself harder to succeed. And succeed she did – she not only won, she also broke a national record in doing so. She decided to enter the long jump competition next, an event that double amputees were technically ‘not supposed’ to enter. A year later, she broke the world record in it.

She attended Georgetown University, where she continued to compete against ‘able-bodied’ athletes by becoming the first disabled athlete to compete in NCAA Division I track and field.

143803One of Aimee Mullins' artificial limbsKippelboy, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Mullins decided to work towards competing in the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. To do so, she obtained her first pair of sprinting legs with which she hoped to break the time she needed for Paralympic placement. Instead, her greatest fear came true – her leg began to slip off, and consequently, she lost because of it. Her coach pushed her to compete in the 200-meter, forcing her to face her biggest fear and to realize that true bravery is not the absence of fear, but the ability to conquer it.

She not only broke the time, she also swept the Paralympic trials a month later, running so fast that she was placed with arm amputees at the following meet instead, without being told. She finished last, and though she was upset, it didn’t stop her. She set Paralympic records in Atlanta for the 100 and 200-meter dash and in the long jump.

The following year she was named USA Track and Field's Disabled Athlete of the Year, and the National Association of Women in Education's 1997 Woman of Distinction.

Never one to be boxed-in physically or mentally, she excelled in other areas as well. While at Georgetown she was also selected for the prestigious Foreign Affairs internship program, the only woman amongst 250 men, and the youngest person to obtain Pentagon security clearance. She graduated in 1998 from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service with a double major in History and Diplomacy.

Mullins has since set her sights towards Hollywood. She has already had a few roles on television and in movies, and she has been featured in numerous magazines and books. In 2002 she starred in Matthew Barney's cult-favorite 'Cremaster 3,' playing a cheetah woman, ironic in that her own sprinting legs were designed after the super-swift animal.

In 1999 she was a runway model for British fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s London show. He designed incredibly intricate wooden legs for her that appeared to be long brown boots. They were so convincing, in fact, that the media had no idea they were prosthetics, and when they found out the next morning, it was the talk of the town (some praising the designer, others criticizing him).

She remains active in sports and served as 2005's President-elect of the Women's Sports Foundation, a 'charitable educational organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity.'

With a personality as vibrant as her talents, she also works to reach out to the community, to help others recognize their own potential and talents, despite what obstacles they may have to overcome. She serves as a motivational speaker, is on the board of directors of Just One Break, and co-founded HOPE (Helping Others Perform with Excellence) to aid disabled people wanting to train and compete in sports.

She has received numerous accolades both on and off the field for her work. She has been included in Irish America’s “Top 100 Irish Americans” list several times, was included in Esquire's "Women We Love" 1998 issue, was named one of Jane magazine’s “10 Gutsiest Women” in 1999, and the following year was featured as one of the greatest American women in the 20th century in an exhibit at the Women’s Museum in Dallas. People Magazine honored her beauty by selecting her as one of their “50 Most Beautiful People in the World,” and in 2001 Sports Illustrated named her one of the "Coolest Girls in Sports."

"Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can have. It's much sexier than any body part.” - Aimee Mullins, Oprah Magazine, May 2004

Both a record-breaking Paralympic athlete and a fashion icon/Hollywood-star in the making, Mullins has the amazing ability to constantly redefine herself. She is just as comfortable in high heels and gowns as she is in running shorts and sneakers, wearing both with the unbridled confidence of one that is truly gorgeous both inside and out.

Page created on 7/4/2013 1:16:50 PM

Last edited 3/22/2021 5:30:40 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Aimee Mullins -
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
TED Talk - Amy's TED Talk

Extra Info

Awards and Accomplishments

2005 – Named president-elect of the Women’s Sports Foundation
2005 – featured in film, “Marvelous."
2005 – featured in film, “Quid Pro Quo,”produced by Mark Cuban.
2004 -- Named to HBO’s list of “Up and Coming” actors
2003 – Named to Rolling Stone Magazine’s annual “Hot List”
2003 – Lead actress in Agatha Christie’s Poirot drama series
2003 -- Star of acclaimed contemporary artist Matthew Barney’s film entitled “Cremaster 3” presented by the Guggenheim Museum and Palm Pictures
2002 – Featured in the Track and Field Hall of Fame, to open in NYC in 2003
2001 – Included in Smithsonian presentation of “Game Face: What Does A Female Athlete Look Like?”
2001 – Named as one of Sports Illustrated’s “Coolest Girls In Sports”
2001 – Named to Board of Trustees, Vice President, for “Just One Break” (JOB), founded by Eleanor Roosevelt, Orin Lehman, Howard Rusk, and Bernard Baruch
2000 – Received honorary PhD, Doctor of Humane Letters, from St. John Fisher College
2000 – Included in permanent exhibit of The Women’s Museum (Dallas, TX) as one of the “Greatest American Women of the 20th Century,” sports division
2000 – Named to Advisory Board for Oxygen-Markle Pulse by Ms. Geraldine Laybourne (CEO, Oxygen Media) and Ms. Zoe Baird (President, Markle Foundation)
2000 – Named one of the “Top 100 Irish-Americans” by Irish-America Magazine (1999, 1998 also)
1999 – Named one of “The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World” by People Magazine
1999 – Contributing writer to Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, US and 12 international editions
1999 – Named one “The Year’s 10 Gutsiest Women” by Jane Magazine
1998 – Co-founder, “H.O.P.E.” (Helping Others Perform with Excellence), a non-profit organization to provide means, training, and opportunity for persons with disabilities to compete in sports
1998 – Presented with the Tiffany & Co. “Shining Star” Award for raising social awareness of diversity issues
1998 -- Collaborated on award-winning interactive design project with San Diego Children’s Museum to promote non-traditional thinking
1998 – Special Achievement Award, National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation
1998 – “ESPY” Finalist, Arthur Ashe Award, ESPN Awards Show
1998 – Featured in Esquire Magazine’s “Women We Love” issue
1997 – “Woman of Distinction” Award, National Association of Women in Education
1997 – “Disabled Female Athlete of the Year,” USA Track and Field
1997 – “Top 40 Under 40” list, Irish-Echo Magazine
1997 – Finalist for “ARETE” Awards, ESPN
1997 – Named to Disabled Sports, USA Advisory Council
1997 – Nominated to President’s Council on Physical Fitness by U.S. Sen. Max Cleland
1996 – Member of Georgetown University Women’s Track team
1996 – First disabled member to compete in NCAA in US History
1996 – Only double-below-the-knee amputee to compete on a Division I track team
1996 – World Record Holder, 100 meters
1996 – World Record Holder, Long Jump
1996 – World Record Holder, 200 meters
1996 – Olympian, competed in Paralympics, Atlanta, GA
1993 – Awarded full academic scholarship from U.S. Department of Defense