There's something about Jess.

There's something about Jess Quinn.

If you follow the 26-year-old on Instagram, you don't need me to tell you that. The influencer and disability advocate has a certain no-bullshit panache to her; she's raw without being overly earnest, honest without being blunt.

When Zara and I met Jess Quinn in her Melbourne hotel room, we knew our In Conversation episode together would mostly fixate on what happened to Jess when she was nine years old. We knew the crux of our 45 minutes together would be Jess's cancer diagnosis, her treatment, and the eventual amputation of most of her leg. What we didn't expect, though, is just how articulate and thoughtful Jess would be - how her analysis and insights would stay with us long after we pressed the 'record' button.

Here's the thing about Jess: she doesn't settle. She doesn't lapse into that frustrating smile-and-be-polite people pleaser rhetoric that I fall into at the very whiff of confrontation. She stands tall in the face of a challenge. She stands her ground.

After Jess lost her leg, she kept running, she kept swimming. She told the doctors whenever her prosthetics weren't up to scratch. She put her story into the mainstream, and built a following of 180,000 people off of it. She went on national reality show Dancing With The Stars. She did a TED Talk. She started a petition to request that the New Zealand House of Representatives pass legislation requiring brands, advertisements, and the media to disclose if the physical appearance of a model has been altered or retouched in photographs. Oh, she also got in contact with Jacinda Ardern about it. No biggie.

"I've always had this confidence," Jess said. "Maybe because my parents didn't give me too much sympathy - because I didn't want it - that I never reverted into this shell. I just kept going up and up and up. Once you take one step, you kind of take the next. It's your life and you've got to stand up for what you want."

What Jess wants is greater diversity and inclusion in the media and advertising. She wants to crush the idea that beauty looks like one shape, one size, one body. She wants to show other women that you can not only bounce back from a life-changing event - you can flourish and thrive.

Jess's story is like a splash of cold water to the face - one that jolts you awake a little, that reminds you how much agency and power you can have if you harness it effectively.

On Jess's functional leg, she has a tattoo that reads "still standing".

But she's doing even more than that, really. She's sprinting full-steam ahead, pulling our culture into the future with her.
You can listen to our interview with Jess here. It's one of my favourite In Conversation episodes yet. (Yes, I just snuck a fourth recommendation into our recommendations newsletter. Fight me.)

Mich xxx

Emma Hackett