Skip to main content

Mama Cax walks the runway for Chromat during New York Fashion Week in 2018.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Mama Cax, an advocate of people with disabilities and a rising model who helped disrupt the fashion industry’s standard of beauty by not shying away from displaying her prosthetic leg on the runway and in fashion campaigns, died on Dec. 16 at Royal London Hospital. She was 30.

Her agency, Jag Models, confirmed her death. A cause of death was not given, but a statement shared on her official Instagram account Friday said she had spent the week in the hospital leading up to her death.

Mama Cax, whose real name was Cacsmy Brutus, shared in a post Dec. 12 that she had experienced severe abdominal pain in London and sought medical attention. She later learned that she had blood clots in her leg, thigh and abdomen and near her lungs, she said.

Story continues below advertisement

“As a cancer survivor, she had grown accustomed to taking on life’s several challenges head-on and successfully,” the statement said. “It is with that same grit (fervor) that she fought her last days on earth.”

Ms. Brutus, who was born on Nov. 20, 1989, in Brooklyn, leaves her mother, Marie Vilus; her father, Cacsman Brutus; and four sisters, Sabienne, Lei, Cassline and Ashley.

She studied in New York, France, Tunis and Rome, and had bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international studies, according to her website.

As a teenager, she learned she had bone and lung cancer and had a hip replacement after her treatment, according to an interview with Glamour. Her body rejected the hip, however, and she had her right leg amputated.

She struggled to accept the changes.

“I probably spent one or two weeks without looking at my body whatsoever,” she told the magazine. “That sort of disgust lingered and lasted throughout my early years in college. Feeling beautiful or being in a space where I would feel beautiful was not at all on my radar. It wasn’t a priority because I figured I could never get there.”

Along the way, Ms. Brutus began blogging about lifestyle and travel. She used her platform to inspire other amputees, and drew attention by dressing up her prosthetic leg.

Story continues below advertisement

“I didn’t see body appreciation being shown to people with disabilities or people with scars, so I started sharing my story on Instagram,” she told The New York Times in May. “I was sharing for women who don’t see themselves as beautiful and don’t see their bodies celebrated.”

She secured her first campaign in 2017 and eventually signed with Jag Models, according to Glamour.

“It was so surreal knowing there can be a space for me in beauty,” she said. “From that point on, I knew I had an ability to break certain barriers.”

In her career, Ms. Brutus landed campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger and Sephora and graced the September, 2018, cover of Teen Vogue. She also walked in a fashion show at the White House, as well as in shows for Chromat and Savage X Fenty, a brand by Rihanna, who called Ms. Brutus a “powerhouse beauty” in a tribute.

“She was representing a whole community that’s always been either misrepresented or just been invisible,” Jillian Mercado, a close friend and fellow model, said Saturday. “She was really good at educating people on not only her disability but how you can be an ally to the community. She was one of the first people who had a disability on the catwalk.”

Stephanie Thomas, a disability fashion styling expert who worked with Ms. Brutus, said her impact on the fashion industry was “undeniable.”

Story continues below advertisement

“She wasn’t afraid to be herself,” she said. “What I loved about it is that she challenged norms not by putting other people down but by having the courage to, you know, really express herself through fashion.”

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies