Jessica Cox’s Mentor

Many of us know what it felt like to be an outsider in school, whether it was because of our race, personal beliefs, sexual orientation, or something else entirely. For Jessica Cox, growing up different in the 80s and 90s — before the Internet existed — was particularly difficult because she had no role models and felt utterly alone in her difference. Imagine being the only kid in your school, and in the entire city for that matter, who looked the way you do and faced the same obstacles.

Fortunately for Jessica, her situation changed one day when, as shown in our trailer, a teenage Jessica happened to see a TV show featuring a woman named Barbara Guerra. Barbie had lost her arms as a child in an electrical accident, but because she was so young she was able to make an amazing recovery, learning to do everything with her feet. As shown on the TV show, Barbie had gone on to live a full and active life, was married, and had a baby.

Amazingly it turned out Barbie lived just a couple of hours from Jessica, and so a meeting was arranged. It was a life changing encounter. “For the first time in my life, I was watching someone who did the same things I did,” Jessica recounts. “And it felt weird because I didn’t know I looked like that. It’s hard for me to explain but in my mind I (thought) I look like everyone else who uses their hands and arms. Suddenly I realized, ‘That’s what I look like. reebok question That’s why everyone stares at me!'”

Barbie poses at a bodybuilding competition. She's an accomplished professional.

Barbie poses at a bodybuilding competition. She’s an accomplished professional.

The visit produced other realizations as well. Watching Barbie change her baby’s diaper and care for him was a revelation for Jessica, who had always wondered if it would really be possible for her to be a mother. Obviously, she could be. “She goes over and picks this little baby up,” Jessica remembers. “And picks him up in a way that doesn’t hurt him. She picks him up with her chin and shoulder, picks him right up at the shoulder. And that answered my question, how do you carry a baby without any arms.”

One aspect of Jessica’s visit was unexpected, in that Barbie was critical of Jessica’s lack of work towards becoming independent. Barbie’s message was that Jessica needed to wake up every day thinking about how she could become more self-sufficient, even in little ways. When Jessica explained that she hadn’t learned how to use a shopping cart at a grocery store because her mother took care of the shopping, Barbie made sure to show her how to do it. That was a life lesson that the two discussed when Jessica visited Barbie recently, a visit we filmed for RIGHTFOOTED. “At the time,” Barbie remembered, “I wasn’t sure if I’d really gotten through to you. I thought you might just keep looking for help from other people.” To which Jessica replied, “No, you definitely did not waste your time.”

In fact, Jessica’s meeting with Barbie is an experience she holds close to herself. She now sees mentorship as part of her own mission, and reaches out to children with disabilities whenever she can.

By the way, Barbie’s now an accomplished bodybuilder and motivator who like Jessica has appeared on TV many times, including on 20/20 and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! See her website at: