If you ask, Emily Flores will tell you many reasons why she founded Cripple Media.
On the one hand, she love magazines for teenagers. Inspired by teen-run brands like Rookie magazine, Flores found herself alone in her bedroom at age 15, Google searching “how to make a magazine.”
She also wanted to make friends. When she launched her brand, she spent hours interacting with other teens on Twitter and Instagram, some of whom would later become her full-time members.
Most importantly, Flores said she founded Cripple Media (originally called Cripple Magazine) because she couldn’t find anything else like it.
“I wanted to create a space that was for young people like me because I didn’t see a space that looked like this at all,” Flores, now 18, told In The Know.
Flores, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, spent much of her childhood in spaces designed by people without disabilities. She grew up in a suburb of Austin, Texas, where she spent years attending events for other disabled children – which she described as “inauthentic”, “condescending” and “confusing.” These encounters, which seemed awkward and bad, affected her in more ways than she thought at the time.
“When I was younger I didn’t have any disabled friends until about two years ago, I think,” Flores said. “So that – I didn’t realize it until later – really had an impact on how I saw myself and how I saw other people with disabilities. “
When Flores started her community, it wasn’t at a face-to-face dating event – it was online. Through social media, she found other disabled teens. Like her, many of them wanted something that they could totally make their own. So Flores got down to business.
“I wanted to create a space where it feels really authentic, and a space where you feel cool and trendy and so just – trendy, for lack of a better word,” said Flores.
The result of this idea was Cripple Media. The print magazine turned website, which calls itself the first of its kind, is a media brand by and for young people with disabilities. The site covers culture, politics, lifestyle, identity and more. There is even a column of tips and plans for an online merchandising store.
Flores’ idea for the name of the site arose out of a current trend in the disabled community, through which activists, media professionals and many others are picking up words like “crip” and “cripple” , which in the past have been used as derogatory terms.
“I wanted to call him ‘crippled’, that’s because it also brings similar shock value and sort of makes a non-disabled person think, ‘Oh my God, who would name a magazine on the? infirmity of the handicap? “” Flores mentioned. “And so I guess I wanted the answer to be, ‘people with disabilities. “”
Everything about Cripple Media is decidedly young and cool. The staff is extremely young – Flores said her editors range from teens to twenties – and the website flashes in Gen Z style. There’s even a flurry of hearts following your cursor as you browse.
What started out as a one-person DIY business has grown into something much bigger. The Cripple Media team now numbers dozens of people, and the brand has been featured online in VICE and in print for The New York Times.
Flores and her team accomplished all of this in just three years. In the meantime, Flores, who is only 18, has balanced running a website while attending college at the University of Texas. She has also written for Teen Vogue, guest on podcasts and given a TEDx talk on accessible fashion.
It’s a resume that seems somewhere between impressive and mind-blowing to someone his age. However, Flores considers her own success to be fully reproducible. For her, it all depends on your state of mind.
When asked what she would say to young people looking to start similar projects, Flores’ advice is clear.
“My advice to young people is that you are literally not alone,” she said. “No matter how unique you think your issues are… I guess I just want young people to know that there is a community that can support you, uplift you and defend you.”
Finding this support system isn’t always easy – it took Flores years to do it. But Flores is a firm believer in the good the internet can do, especially for underrepresented communities.
“With the Internet you can really do anything,” she said. “Set up a space and distribute it to people. Your voice really matters, and it’s something I’ve really struggled with for a very long time, [but] we can take back our power. It’s difficult, and I don’t think we’ve done it yet, but we can do it.
Flores wants there to be more brands like Cripple Media. Still, she is optimistic that one day soon there will be. In the meantime, she hopes her brand can continue to grow, so that she and her team can raise their voices even more.
“I just hope that [Cripple Media] is soon becoming and still is a truly accessible and open space, and a publishing media company where we can receive compensation for the work we do, ”said Flores. “And that it can provide a source of employment opportunities for young creative people with disabilities.”
You can check out the Cripple Media site here and follow the brand on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.
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If you liked this story, go see In The Know interview with disability activist Aubrie Lee.
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