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“My Life In My Hands”, By A Woman Born Without Hands

By Austin Edoho

Alison Lapper undoubtedly is a hero who has defied all odds to become a celebrity, from her mother’s rejection at birth, through a childhood deprived of affection in children’s homes, to independence, a first class art degree, motherhood and critical success. Her resilience, fortitude and humour are humbling, yet she rejects any notion of ‘bravery’.

She has shown the world that people can become a success only if they are focused, diligent, and willing to pay the price for the manifestation of their dream.

Born without hands, Alison has risen to become a celebrated artist and a published author whose book has sold thousands of copies the world over.

Alison Lapper MBE (born 7 April 1965 in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire is an English artist. She is the subject of the sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant, which was on display in Trafalgar Square until late 2007. She and her son Parys feature in the ongoing BBC docuseries Child of Our Time.

Alison Lapper was born without arms and with shortened legs, a condition called phocomelia. She was institutionalized in her infancy, and is still distant from her relatives.

When she was fitted with artificial limbs, she experienced them only as an attempt to make her look less disconcerting instead of actually helping her. So she abandoned them and learned to live without external aids.

At the age of 19, Lapper left Chailey Heritage School and moved to London. She acquired a driving licence and a flat. Lapper studied in The Faculty of Arts and Architecture at the University of Brighton and graduated with a first class honours degree in Fine Art in 1994.

Lapper uses photography, digital imaging, and painting to, as she says, question physical normality and beauty, using herself as a subject. She is a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World (AMFPA), having joined as a student member and receiving a full membership after her college graduation. One particular influence is the sculpture Venus de Milo, due to the physical similarities between the idealized classical female statue and Lapper’s own body. She has taken part in various British exhibitions, including in the Royal Festival Hall. In May 2003, Lapper was awarded an MBE for her services for art.

After she had given birth to her son Parys in 2000, she created an installation of photographs of herself with him. Lapper and her son have featured on the ongoing BBC television documentary Child of Our Time. In 2006, she published her book My Life in My Hands.

In May 2003, Lapper was awarded MBE for services to art.

In July 2014, Lapper was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Brighton.

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