Carly Findlay OAM

Biography and abstract for Appearance Matters 9 Online Conference keynote speaker


Carly Findlay OAM is an award-winning writer, speaker and appearance activist. Her first book, a memoir called Say Hello, was released in January 2019.

Carly edited the anthology, Growing Up Disabled in Australia, with Black Inc Books. It's in stores now. 

She writes on disability and appearance diversity issues for news outlets including the ABC, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and SBS.

In 2020, Carly received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her work as a disability advocate and activist.

She was named as one of Australia’s most influential women in the 2014 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awards. She has appeared on ABC TV’s ‘You Can’t Ask That’ and ‘Cyberhate’ with Tara Moss, and has been a regular on various ABC radio programs. She has spoken at the Melbourne Writers Festival, the UWE Bristol and Melbourne University, to name a few. She  organised the history-making ‘Access to Fashion’, a Melbourne Fashion Week event featuring disabled models. She has a Masters degree in Communication and Bachelors degree in eCommerce.

Carly identifies as a proud disabled woman who lives with a rare severe skin condition, ichthyosis. She organised Australia’s first Ichthyosis meet in 2015 – bringing together 75 people affected by the rare, severe skin condition Ichthyosis. Twenty five attendees had Ichthyosis. Friendships and support networks were formed. 


The power of a selfie: A place for appearance diversity

by Carly Findlay

Social media, especially selfies and outfit photos, get a bad rap: too vain, filtered, a highlight reel that’s unattainable for many. If you have a facial difference, a skin condition or are disabled, it’s rare that you see yourself in the mainstream media, and maybe even rarer that you’ll bump into others like you in the street. But social media has become a place for us, and a place to be seen. It’s a place for appearance diversity. For me, for us, selfies and being visible can be game changing. They can help us increase confidence, share information, foster communities, change other people’s perceptions and show younger and older generations what’s possible.

While diagnoses might differ, the collective social experience of living with facial differences, skin conditions and disability are very much the same. Finding your tribe is important, and social media helps us find our identity and community. 

I share my photo so that new parents of babies with ichthyosis can see what’s possible for their little ones and to allay their fears. Googling ichthyosis can be scary, but I’ve helped to change that. I share my photo to give others with ichthyosis, facial differences and disability permission to share theirs and love themselves. I share my photo to show brands, and yes, I wear their clothes too. I share my photo to document the good times and the difficult times. I share my photo to demand improved access, inclusion and representation. I share my photo because I refuse to hide.

This keynote will show that social media is a space for us and a space to be seen, on our own terms.

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