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."
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.