In 2010, Christina Mallon’s first step on the professional ladder was as an assistant account manager for Procter & Gamble, working with CoverGirl cosmetics. Her main responsibility was developing and executing creative strategy for the cosmetics brand, and using storytelling to move people. “In the US, the brand had a few spokeswomen (Ellen DeGeneres and Queen Latifah), they were more diverse than the usual, and I was really motivated by that,” Mallon tells CR. “That’s when I was really inspired to focus on representation in advertising.”
This idea of representation quickly turned into an all-out mission for Mallon. In the first month of her new job, Mallon began to show hand weakness and a lack of movement in her arms. Soon after, she became paralysed in both arms and was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease. The transition to being disabled was challenging, but it was amplified by people’s assumptions of her situation.
“Many people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, when are you quitting your job? When are you going to move back in with your parents?’ – because, obviously, as a disabled person, you couldn’t continue your work,” remembers Mallon. “But that wasn’t true. I was living alone in New York; I was fine. I figured out ways to move in this world that wasn’t accessible for me. When people just assumed my life wouldn’t be happy and joyful, that was very painful.”
Though Mallon had her family and friends, she wasn’t given any help with adaptations at work as there was no one else who had hand and arm disabilities. So stepping up to the challenge, Mallon embarked on a journey of hacking the world.