This video is part of Health’s #RealLifeStrong series, where we are celebrating women who represent strength, resilience, and grace.
When Sydney Mesher tells people she's a dancer, they're often surprised, she says. The 20-year-old was born without a left hand, but that hasn't stopped her from pursuing her dreams in an industry known for its rigid body standards: "I get to be that person that kind of breaks that barrier, of that mindset."
Mesher’s left arm ends at the base of her wrist due to symbrachydactyly, a rare condition that causes the underdevelopment of limbs in the womb. "Growing up, I dealt with a lot of bullying," says the Portland, Ore., native. But she eventually recognized that the way people reacted to her was really all about them: "What's happening is someone's acting out of their own fear."
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Mesher is currently studying dance at Pace University in New York City. "With dance you are constantly growing. There's no stopping point," she says. "There's always a place to be better." After college, she hopes to become a Rockette or a backup dancer for Lady Gaga.
“I’m very grateful that I’m at a time in this industry where we’re starting to accept different body types," she says. "I know I am different. Especially as an artist, it's so important to have those differences."
Her individuality shines through her work: "This is part of who I am. It’s not who I am, but it’s part of me. I want to share who I am and what I love, and celebrate that.” For more of Mesher's story, check out the video above.
We want to hear about more #RealLifeStrong women. Nominate yourself—or a friend or family member—here. We’ll be sharing the most inspiring stories we receive in the months ahead.