*TW: eating disorder, self-harming
Keith Parris, aka the Icy amputee warrior, understands the importance of representation. When he couldn’t see his own identities reflected back at him on TV and social media, he became the representation he needed.
Growing up as a Black queer amputee wasn’t easy for Parris. As a child of Caribbean immigrants (his mother is from Trinidad and his father is from Grenada) born and raised in New York City, Parris was already caught between multiple worlds. Additionally, he was navigating an eating disorder, self-harming impulses, and was on the receiving end of schoolyard gossip. The barrage was immense, but Parris decided to take his narrative into his own hands, at the encouragement of a student counselor, by writing it into the storytelling site Wattpad.
Parris put all of his thoughts, feelings, and experiences—so far—into a book titled Amputee Story. Wattpad boasts a user base of over 500 million people and Parris sent his story out to all of them. His narrative seemingly went viral overnight, eventually reaching his classmates. Apologies and words of support reached Parris’ phone and overflowed into his social media accounts. From there, Parris learned the power within storytelling, and decided to take his narrative all across social media.
Now, Parris uses that same social media presence to create representation for folks like him who couldn’t see themselves reflected in mainstream culture. With over 25,000 followers on Instagram and over 130,000 followers on TikTok, Parris uses his position as an influencer to highlight his life as an amputee in some of the most mundane ways, from attending a routine doctor’s appointment to a fun night out with friends. But you’ll catch his makeup tutorial TikToks and anime cosplay reels intertwined with these moments, showing off his skills and furthering representation for Black queer people and the amputee community in one fell swoop.
And his influence on social media isn’t going unnoticed. Due to his efforts, he’s secured several brand partnerships, including one with Savage x Fenty, helmed by global pop icon and beauty mogul Rihanna. The “Bad Gyal” herself is known for creating products and ads that include individuals from different races, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities.
In an interview with INTO, Parris explained how, when Rihanna’s team reached out to him for a brand ambassadorship with Savage x Fenty, it was an absolute “no brainer” for him to consider the opportunity. Ultimately, Parris’ team informed him that his campaign post performed neck and neck with Rihanna’s own, a feat he cherishes as much as his Adidas campaign.
A quick trip to Adidas’ Portland, Oregon offices ended up as the highlight in a campaign designed to show that sportswear and athletics are for everyone. The response to his work was overwhelmingly positive. In his interview with INTO, he mentioned how his friends and extended family came across the work before he could see the finished product. He realized his true power when he learned that people were buying items from his campaign not because they were athletes, but because he was in the ad.
Brand partnerships aside, Parris was honored as part of Out Magazine’s Out100 in 2020 alongside Janelle Monáe, Keke Palmer, Jameela Jamil, and Lizzo. Now he adds to his growing list of recognitions as a part of INTO’s 25 Under 25.
While Parris prepares to remaster his life-changing book Amputee Story, the 24-year-old has so much more of his story to tell and plenty of Black, queer, amputee representation to create.