Mom Shares How Ulta's Wheelchair Model Changed Her 4-year-old Daughter's Perception of Beauty

Maren Anderson sits in her wheelchair looking at an Ulta beauty store ad
Carolyn Kovacs Anderson/Facebook

At just 4 years old, little Maren Anderson of Leesburg, Virginia, is already proving she's a force to be reckoned with. Her mom, Carolyn, describes her as a "dance-loving, babydoll-toting, bike-riding" little spitfire, with an infectious giggle and a mesmerizing smile to boot. She's also shown a strength and tenacity to overcome any challenges that stand in her way -- starting with those caused by a rare genetic disorder she was born with, which requires her to use a wheelchair. "All she wants is to be accepted for who she is, and represented like everyone else," her mother says. And now that the little girl's story is swiftly going viral, it certainly seems that dream is coming true.

  • Last week, Maren was practicing “driving” her new wheelchair around when something kind of amazing happened.

    According to her mom, she was "cruising on the sidewalk in her wheelchair with a confidence we had not seen before." And as she navigated the pavement better than she ever had since getting the wheelchair 12 weeks earlier, her mom couldn't help but notice -- and feel proud.

    "She was so eager, we could barely get her to stop at crosswalks," Carolyn tells CafeMom.

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  • But that's when the little girl came to a stop right in front of an Ulta beauty store and looked up.

    "She suddenly stopped and focused all her attention on this image of a woman in a wheelchair like hers," Carolyn says. "It was amazing."

    It certainly was. 

    To see right before her very eyes a woman who looked just like her -- thriving, happy, and full of life -- was all at once captivating and inspiring. And as it turned out, it was pretty captivating and inspiring to others, too.

  • Carolyn snapped a photo of the special moment and shared it to Facebook on August 14, where it's since gone super viral.

    In fact, to date it has over 76K shares and thousands of comments from people across Facebook who found themselves moved in more ways than one.

    Many praised Ulta for being inclusive to all forms of beauty.

    "Yes!" wrote one woman. "I love the diversity of these new in-store ads."

    "Representation matters," added another.

    Others shared some of their own stories about how little moments of inclusion like this can prove powerful for people with disabilities.

    "This made me cry," wrote one woman. "I felt the same way about the Barbie doll 'Wheelchair Becky' when I was a kid. Just stared at her in the toy aisle and got every version they had ... We need more posters like these, more actors, singers, and represent the community to show the wheel stopping empowerment this one picture shows."

  • Carolyn says the small but meaningful moment was pretty huge for Maren's family, too.

    "As a child with receptive and expressive language delays, Maren’s actions mean so much more," she tells CafeMom. "This was the first time we saw her stop and really connect with an image of a wheelchair user, like herself. She got to see herself in this picture, and that planted a seed for her to see that there is a place for kids like her in this world. She was included."

    Ultimately, she's bowled over by the outpouring of love and acceptance her little post has caused, but she longs for the day when something like this won't actually be so newsworthy.

    "We hope that Maren’s awestruck reaction to this advertisement inspires more inclusion and representation of the disability community, and highlights the need for continued progress," she says. "We want Maren to always know that she belongs everywhere -- everyone deserves to live in a society where they can be themselves and thrive."