The model, who had a prosthetic leg since her teenage years, was a powerful advocate for inclusivity in the fashion industry

By Kaitlyn Frey
December 20, 2019 02:35 PM
Mama Cax
Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty

Rihanna has paid tribute to model and fashion inclusivity activist Mama Cax (née Cacsmy Brutus) after her family announced her death at the age of 30 on Instagram Friday.

The singer and designer, 31, paid tribute to Mama Cax on twitter alongside a photograph of the model walking at the Savage x Fenty fashion show earlier this year.

“A queen. A force. A powerhouse beauty that brought her strength to the @savagexfenty stage this year inspiring so many across the globe. Rest In Power sis @mama_cax,” Rihanna wrote.

Mama Cax’s family posted a message on the model’s Instagram account explaining that after spending a week in the hospital, she passed away on Monday, Dec. 16.

“It is with deep regret and immense sadness that we announce the passing of Cacsmy Brutus (Mama Cax). Mama Cax spent the past week in the hospital, and unfortunately, on Monday, December 16, 2019, she left this world. To say that Cax was a fighter would be an understatement. As a cancer survivor, she had grown accustomed to taking on life’s several challenges head on and successfully. It is with the same grit (fervor) that she fought her last days on earth,” the post said.

Her family continued saying: “We are aware that this loss will be felt globally and will not be easy for anyone. We ask that you please respect Cax’s privacy in this difficult time. We will make information about funeral arrangements public once they are finalized.”

The comments section was flooded with heartbroken messages from Mama Cax’s friends and fellow models. “Devastating.. To Cax’s family and loved ones my deepest condolences ❤️ much love and prayers ?,” model Nina Agdal wrote.

British model Iskra Lawrence wrote: “here’s no words to express how grateful I am for your existence and that the world has been graced with your positivity, wisdom and love. It’s been an honour my love to get to know you and I will always cherish the memories and until we meet again one day – thank you, thank you for being you love you ❤️”

Tess Holliday, an advocate for body positivity in the fashion world, said, “It was an honor to know you, to love you & to watch you shine.”

Mama Cax’s last Instagram post before her passing was just one week ago, when she shared a photo of a beautiful floral arrangement in a windowsill overlooking London. She reflected on 2019, which she described as “one of the best years for me.” In the caption, she also opened up about experiencing “severe abdominal pain” while in London and being rushed to the emergency room.

“The next morning it got worse, while barely conscious, I asked the hotel to call me an ambulance. They discovered that I had several blood clots in my leg, thigh, abdomen and near an IVC filter near my lungs (which is a medical device that prevents clots from entering the lungs.) Up until this emergency visit I had no idea I had such filter (which I assumed was placed there during my chemo days 14yrs ago) – nonetheless this filter saved my life,” Cax wrote.

She added: “Lots of unanswered questions which I’ll have to figure out once I’m back to the States but I’m finally out of the hospital, in less pain, resting and taking blood thinners. Unfortunately flying puts me at risk of a pulmonary embolism therefore I’m stuck across the pond until after Christmas. Hope y’all are gearing up for a wonderful holiday season.”

Mama Cax, who is originally from Haiti, was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer at the age of 14. Following her treatment, she needed to have a hip replacement surgery. Weeks later her body was rejecting it, so Mama Cax went into emergency surgery and had a hemipelvectomy amputation performed on her right leg, leaving her needing a prosthetic leg for the rest of her life.

But that didn’t stop her from becoming a powerful force for disability inclusivity in the modeling world, landing major campaigns for wet n wild, Olay, Becca, Henning, Tommy Hilfiger and Sephora.

“I realize it’s often the first time they’re having someone with a disability be represented, and the message I get afterwards from the community is overwhelmingly positive,” Mama Cax told Glamour in August.

While Mama Cax had been happy to see positive change in the industry in terms of diversity and inclusivity, she still had been fighting for even more.

“Even when I look at all-black spaces, they lack that diversity as well,” she told Glamour. “They do try to include different kinds of people within the black community, but disability is often a missing piece. I’m embraced there because of my blackness — I want to also be embraced there because of my disability.”