NYC’s Mama Cax, the dazzling Haitian-American model, cancer survivor, and disability advocate, dropped by The Standard, High Line to talk her inspiring journey following her leg amputation, her most embarrassing past style choices, being the new face of Tommy Hilfiger’s new Adaptive line, and what her many bangles represent (it’s hilarious).
MAMA CAX: My name is Cacsmy Brutus and my nickname is Cax. People in college used to call me Mama a lot. Later on, I found out they called everyone Mama, but I thought I was special. I started going by Mama Cax at a point of my life where I didn't really know who I was and I wanted to reinvent myself. Mama Cax is my alter ego who is much older and more sophisticated.
Your call for body positivity is so incredibly inspiring and important. Did you always have that mindset?
When it comes to body positivity, it's not something that I was raised to embrace. I think a lot of us are raised in societies where body shaming is a norm. If you don't look a certain way, you're not accepted or you're asked to change. [When I was young] I was already hating how I looked because I was a stick figure with a little belly. And then I ended up gaining a lot of weight.
Then, fast forward to when I was diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy at age 14, 15, and I'm losing so much weight. And another thing that was hard for me was losing my hair—it's such a big thing for a lot of women in general but especially in the black community and especially coming from Haiti, where hair is really valued. It's really a way to express yourself. It's a form of art. So, here I was losing that also. Then after my amputation, I was left with so many scars. So, for me personally, I had trouble accepting a new body and loving it. And I went on a journey of trying to get to a place where I felt happy, but little did I know that I would bring so many people on that journey with me.
It's changed a lot. When I look at pictures of me back in the days, it's like, "Girl, what were you doing?"
What do you regret the most?
I had a phase where I was into the Harajuku style, so I'd get tiny teddy bears and attach them to my dress. Oh my God. It was just horrible. Over time, my style has become more mature, and I tend to play with textures and colors more because I'm more confident now. Before, I wanted to fly under the radar. I didn't want to draw too much attention. Now I have my colorful prosthetic covers that have really nice designs and making my outfit match.
Amazing. I’ve been familiar with the line since it launched about two years ago. Seeing that I have a lot of people with disabilities who look up to me, just being in that space was such an honor. The line is amazing. It includes a lot of pieces that come together with magnets. For me, the way I connect to it is when it comes to their pants that I can put on without having trouble passing them over my prosthetic because they open up at hem.
What has the response been like?
Amazing. Seeing it being covered everywhere, not only in the U.S. but also in France in Le Figaro, which is one of the biggest journals there…. Having it go mainstream is opening so many doors not only for me but also for other brands who are thinking about having adaptive clothing.
I'm a huge accessory fan. I could wear an extra-large men's T-shirt and dress it up with accessories. My favorite is a bag that I got in South Africa. It's actually not a bag, it's a radio made out of soda caps and I turned it into a bag. I can't carry anything it, but I don't care. I also wear a bangle for each month of celibacy. [Laughs.].
[Laughs.] How many do you have?
We're in April? [She counts.] Let's just say I have seven.