Friday, May 13, 2011

Who decides what "art" is?

This has been a big week for our Cleft Awareness Foundation and now that things are starting to settle back down I wanted to take a moment to look back on the positive that came from it all.

Currently we have a network of around 1,500 people built through Facebook. My goal is to offer news on a daily basis that for the most part includes: uplifting & inspirational stories, promotion of good causes, before/after photos, cleft resources, support, life conversation, etc. Thanks to New York Magazine, this past week took a different turn.

The magazine featured a contest where they asked designers, illustrators and cartoonists to give Lady Gaga a shocking new look that could top her recent meat dress. One artist, Tim Hensley, chose to draw her with a cleft lip to promote universal tolerance.

I have chose to not post the photo here, but when I initially saw it I was intrigued. I wanted to know more about the artist and why he chose to draw her in that manner. I assumed he had a cleft background and was an advocate for the cause.

I was hesitant to post the photo on the CA Facebook page, but felt it was important to get others feedback. Then the state of panic set in. Within 20 minutes there were 50+ comments and most were very angry. Some were even mad at me for sharing such an ignorant photo with a group that works so hard to move forward and change perceptions.

Since I was acting as a moderator I remained neutral and prayed that people knew I wasn't endorsing the magazine, artist or photo, but was simply letting others know it existed. Some people demanded that I take it down, some people were positive and hoped it was created with the right reasons and just "missed the mark."

After further examining the 100+ comments I found something very interesting. Almost ALL of the people who were born with clefts and chose to comment came across as strong, positive, tolerant, and dare I say, forgiving human beings.
I think that is the most amazing testament to the beautiful people, both inside and out, these cleft kids are!!

Many things transpired after that and it wasn't all pretty, but in the end we were able to get a major magazine to issue an apology:
After consulting with the artist Tim Hensley we've decided to take down his drawing and he is donating his fee to a cleft palate charity. We offer our sincere apologies to the community.

Through the help of other organizations we were able to get some real media coverage in Atlanta! To view the news clip click here.

This whole ordeal has been amazing; to witness not only the power of social media, but more importantly what can be accomplished through uniting and taking a stand. I am proud to be a cleft mommy and to be surrounded by such strong, beautiful people.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."  - Gandhi

Note: I am excited to get back to sharing positive and exciting news via our Foundation and I would NEVER want a career in Public Relations! That being said, I am still trying to reach out to the artist in hopes of learning more about why this image was created. Stay tuned.


  1. My friend saw a news report on this in Minneapolis as well.

  2. I also noticed that the "cleft affected posters" were a bit more tolerant and forgiving...I tried to stay off FB just so I didn't have to keep reading all of the more negative postings. I certainly hope that my little guy understands just how important acceptance and tolerance are...and that although he may look "different", it is truly what's inside that counts. Great job with your mission!!