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Beautiful People: A. J. Bray

Erica Eichelkraut

Disability and human rights advocate A. J. Bray has lived in Niagara Falls since moving to this area from Washington, DC in 2007. She serves as vice-chair of Niagara Falls Human Rights Commission, is on the board of WNY Independent Living, and acts as a mediator in the Department of Justice ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Mediation Program. In a wheelchair since the age of fourteen. Bray has done several modeling gigs and was the premier cover model for the first online periodical for the people-with-disabilities community, Chloe magazine. She now serves as their fashion editor.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Being featured in People Magazine last year because I lost almost 200 pounds, without gastric bypass surgery–it was the “Half Their Size!” issue. I was also featured on Entertainment Tonight, according to everyone I know–I didn’t watch it. I lost weight by eating low-carb foods, and I do modified yoga for my various illnesses and joint problems.

Are you a dog or cat person?

Kitty cats! I have a cat now, a rescue, named after Julia Child’s cat, Minette.

What is the most beautiful place in WNY?

I’m proud to live in Niagara Falls. What’s beautiful about Niagara Falls is watching it grow into something else: it’s always darkest before the dawn—a crappy cliché—but I see that people here are trying.

Where do you go to experience beauty?

For physical beauty I go across the border and drive down Niagara River Parkway with my husband, and we look at the natural beauty in and around Niagara-on-the-Lake. I can also conjure up beauty inside my own head: I’ve always had a lot of pain and you learn to go inside yourself. You have to create it in you, and see it and feel it.

What place in WNY is in need of beautification?

I see so many ADA violations every day that it makes me nauseated. I think that is ugly. I think it’s truly ugly when I go out and see new buildings being built and they’re not up to the ADA standards—it’s not just a building code; it was written to make sure that people are safe and equal.

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