Rihanna and more stars are mourning the death of Mama Cax, who brought visibility to people with disabilities on the runway and beyond. She was a renown model whose activism reached many.
It’s hard to forget Mama Cax, explaining why many people — Rihanna included — flooded Twitter with tributes after the iconic model passed away at just 30 years old on Dec. 16. In an industry where one body type dominates luxury catwalks, Cax (real name Cacsmy Brutus) brought much-needed diversity to the runway by walking with a prosthetic leg. The sad news of the Haitian-American model and advocate’s death wasn’t revealed until a statement was shared to her Instagram on Dec. 20, just eight days after Cax herself revealed that she was suddenly rushed to the emergency room due to “severe abdominal pain” during a pit stop in London.
In her Instagram post, Cax revealed that doctors “dismissed” the pain, which only got “worse” the next day. Cax requested her hotel to call the ambulance, and that’s when “several blood clots” were discovered in Cax’s leg, thigh and abdomen near an IVC filter that was positioned by her lungs, Cax revealed. The filter was originally installed to block clots from entering the lungs, a remnant from her battle with cancer as a teenager, Cax explained. Now, here’s what you should know about the legacy Cax has left behind in modeling and disability activism.
1. Bone and lung cancer led to the amputation of Cax’s leg. Cax was just 14 years old when she received the cancer diagnosis, and received a hip replacement soon afterwards. After her body rejected the replacement, Cax’s right leg was amputated, according to her profile in Glamour, which named her as one of the “Women Of The Year–All Year” in 2019.
2. Cax has walked on both the Savage x Fenty and White House runways. The loss of Cax’s leg meant she had to walk with a prosthetic and crutches, but that didn’t stop her from breaking down barriers and being invited to walk for The White House’s Design For All Showcase in 2016. She went on to make her New York Fashion Week debut at Chromat’s Spring 2019 show, and most recently walked in Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show in Sept. 2019. Cax has also modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and ASOS.
3. Stars like Rihanna and Jameela Jamil have honored Cax with emotional tributes. Given Cax’s work with Savage x Fenty, Rihanna took to Twitter and wrote, “A queen. A force. A powerhouse beauty that brought her strength to the @savagexfentystage this year inspiring so many across the globe. Rest In Power sis ✊🏿😢 @mama_cax.” Meanwhile, Jameela wrote, “My beautiful friend was the most extraordinary role model. Mama Cax was a cancer survivor, model, amputee, and activist. She was sent home TWICE prematurely by our underfunded NHS and died in her hotel room. This happens so often now in the UK, especially to young black women. 💔”
4. Cax ran a blog named after herself. The multi-talented woman shared posts about beauty, lifestyle, travel, fashion and more. Her last blog entry was dated Oct. 29, 2019.
5. Cax is a double-degree holder. She earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s of art degree in international relations.