Masih Alinejad is back with a new video that was shot by an inspiring woman in Tehran who is hoping to become a model. Manijeh, 35, hasn’t let her physical disabilities get in the way of her living a full life. She’s aspiring to “break the taboos” and become a model. Alinejad, the founder of the popular My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page, directed Manijeh to use a cellphone camera to record her daily life and then send the footage to Alinejad. She then oversaw the editing of the footage Manijeh shot into a 10-minute documentary for Alinejad’s show Tablet on the Voice of America Persian Service, which was also recently featured on My Stealthy Freedom.
Right off the bat, viewers will learn that in no way has Manijeh’s condition dampened her sense of humor. The documentary opens with Manijeh struggling to mount the cellphone camera on her car’s dashboard. “Gosh!” she exclaims. Once the camera is set, she tells viewers, “Masih’s told me to record in a way that the camera can take your hands, too. But I told her, ‘Darling, my hands are too short! I can’t hold the cellphone myself. You’d just see my face.'”
Manijeh was born with achondroplasia, or dwarfism, in addition to having contracted two other rare diseases that have resulted in her suffering from numerous disabilities and affected her ability to speak and left her nearly unable to walk without some sort of assistance. People have repeatedly told her all of the things she won’t be able to do in life, but instead of accepting that negativity, she adds each to a “to-do list.”
One thing she was told she’d never be able to do is ride a horse. Manijeh put that on her list and then, as she discusses in the video, she figured out a way to do it. Not only did she ride in an equestrian event, but she was seen on television doing so in an official event and carried a flag depicting the international federation’s emblem on it.
You get the idea. Manijeh overcomes. But after the documentary debuted last week, she was mocked online by bullies who laughed at the chances that she could become a model, a profession from which women in Iran are barred from entering.
Manijeh, undeterred, responded in a way that might not be so surprising. “Like many women in Iran I don’t like compulsory hijab. Modeling remains forbidden to women in Iran,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “However, when you are disabled, you actually grapple with a double-taboo. I don’t think that one needs a beautiful and perfect body to be able to model; nor does one need to be a Barbie. By entering the modeling world with my disabled body, I would like to tell my disabled compatriots that they should accept and love their own bodies. For society to like you, you should start with liking yourself first. Although some people mock me and put me down I am not going to give up.“