Entrepreneur: Erin Novakowski (she/they)
Tilt: Content for people with disabilities by a person with disabilities
Scene: TikTok (663.8K), Instagram (20.3K), Twitter (2.4K)
- Three years ago, Erin launched her now popular TikTok account, comparing her new hairdo to one sported by the popular singer Eminem.
- The creator, who lives with spinal muscular atrophy, moved on to making jokes about her life in a wheelchair and other videos about her life unrelated to her disability.
- From time to time, she calls out ableists for looking to creators who have disabilities for “inspirational porn.”
- She makes it clear her content is for followers who have disabilities while also offering an inside look at her day-to-day life as a college student.
Why We’re a Stan: Creating content by and for her community is one of Erin’s many passions. She wants to make good, entertaining content while occasionally calling out the problematic nature of treating content from disabled creators as inspirational.
The Story of Erin Novakowski
In 2019, Erin Novakowski uploaded her first TikTok video, debuting her new Eminem makeover. In the videos that followed, Erin shared various aspects of her life, ranging from lip-syncing songs to joking about her life in a wheelchair.
The reason she started the account was simple – to make funny and engaging videos with her close friends.“I made my little jokes, and some of them just happened to be seen by a couple of other people,” she told Refinery29, “and from there I said, ‘OK, I’ll keep making my little jokes.’”
Eventually, Erin responded to comments about her life in a wheelchair. As her TikTok gained steam, the content creator with spinal muscular atrophy worked hard to make it clear that her content wasn’t meant to inspire the ableist community but to uplift her own. “My main goal has always been helping disabled people, making content for disabled people, and just being a little bit of representation on my little corner of the internet,” Erin mentions later in the Refinery29 piece.Erin Novakowski (@cloudylilbaby) has grown her @TikTok to over 660K by creating entertaining content to uplift her peers with disabilities. #Stan #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet
Favoring reality over inspiration
In 2021, Allure reported on the rise of TikTok “inspirational porn” – “images implying that everything a disabled person does is inspiring to able-bodied people.” Their actions wouldn’t be as inspirational or moving if completed by a person without a disability. It is problematic because it sets a low bar for content creators who have disabilities.
Erin creates content on the opposite end of this trend. In a 50-minute video on Refinery29’s TikTok sponsored by Clorox, she explains the jokes and quick comebacks she makes to remind her ableist-interested audience that it isn’t her job to let them know what she can and can’t do.With jokes and quick comebacks, Erin Novakowski (@cloudylilbaby) reminds her ableist-interested audience that it isn't her job to let them know what she can and can't do. #Stan #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet
As the popular TikToker documents her life online while making witty and sassy comments, young people with disabilities can finally see themselves represented in a relatable way. “I love getting a little spicy with my content and talking about embarrassing things like getting blackout drunk or getting ghosted by boys because abled people always assume disabled people don’t experience normal things like that,” Erin tells Allure.
Creating content for Cripple Media and beyond
In addition to being featured in Refinery29’s The Floor is Yours campaign sponsored by Clorox, the TikTok creator has worked with MAC Cosmetics on several occasions, once to create a Valentine’s Day glam and another a ’60s inspired look.
Erin also pen pieces on Cripple Media, the internet’s first-ever media company, where young writers, editors, videographers, and social media professionals living with disabilities can change how their community is viewed. (She also works as its social media and video editor.) “I like to make people laugh, and I like to teach people about disability,” Erin says. “But most of all, it’s just me talking – because no one can stop me.”
About the author
Shameyka McCalman is a wordsmith whose work often centers around fashion, art, and other creatives of color. She earned her communications degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston and enjoys sifting through clothes in local vintage shops, frequenting nearby plays, and gazing at exhibitions on view in museums.