Outside the Lines

Talli Osborne has dedicated her life to empowering others and speaking out against bullying, oppression and ignorance, while inspiring people to look beyond what’s missing and find their sparkle.

Antonia Whyatt

Talli Osborne has fed Richard Branson chocolate cake, had a song written about her by one of the world’s most successful punk bands, NOFX, and done her own TED talk. An impressive list for anyone, let alone someone who was born with no arms, femurs or knees. “I don’t feel in my heart that I’m disabled. I’ve tried, I am able, I can do everything. In fact, I feel I can do more than the average person, so why am I disabled?” However, there is one thing Talli admits she can’t do, “Fix a wedgie!” she chuckles. “I walk with my waist as I don’t have knees and every pair of underwear ends up wedged and I can’t pull it out — which is why I love thongs.”

She was thrilled when she discovered the MARY YOUNG x Latitude body suit was a thong. “It’s perfect for my hula-hooping, I hula-hoop to keep fit and like to do it in the nude, but that’s not always appropriate!” Talli has always been comfortable being naked, something she puts down to having so many people involved in helping her with everything from dressing to bathing when she was young. She famously posed nude for Now Magazine. “I have such a unique body people can’t fathom that I love my body. I am body positive. I have great boobs and I’m very sexual, very open.” Talli’s sexuality is something she fought hard for, she was a virgin during high school, [“obviously!”] and is often asked if she can have sex. “I think people not seeing me as a sexual person really bothered me. Obviously, I want to have sex ‑- why wouldn’t I?  Just because I don’t have any arms? So I started wearing low cut tops and clothes that accent my figure — showing the world this is who I am and don’t feel bad for me.”

It is this attitude that sets Talli apart and even made her bank teller, after watching Talli pull out her bank card with her teeth, burst into tears saying, “I don’t understand how you’re so positive.” Talli laughs as she recounts the story, “I was just going in to set up an RRSP and the next thing I know I’m consoling her and telling her not to worry about me, that I can do anything. The appointment came to an end and as I’m saying goodbye she asks, ‘but how do you cut potatoes?'” The very next day a woman walked up to Talli in Shopper’s Drug Mart and told her, “You’re awesome, every time I see you, you make my day.” “That was my lightbulb moment,” says Talli, and it was then that she decided to take control and reframe around her life. “There is so much negativity and hate and darkness in the world. If I’m inspiring people to get off their butt and do something awesome, to love themselves, quit their job, stop doing something they hate then that’s amazing.”

Talli is now an inspirational speaker. A natural born storyteller who loves the stage, her brain whizzes along spinning wonderful tales out of situations that would break most of us. Much of this is her innate nature, but nurture has also impacted her lens on life. She was given up for adoption at birth as her birth parents “could only see what was missing,” and grew up in Brampton, Ontario, in a family of 22, many with special needs. “Everyone had to contribute, everyone had chores and everyone helped each other.” Talli’s parents had a mini-bus to take the whole family anywhere. They were so tight on space, Talli sat on the wheel well. “I have no arms! I’d fall off over a big bump in the road and then have to get myself back up.” Their attitude and love made Talli feel that anything was possible.

Talli now lives in Hamilton, with her Siamese cat Miso. She is a champion of body positivity, giving graduate commencement speeches and going to high schools to spread her philosophy of letting your differences sparkle. But she didn’t always think this way. “I used to want to try to fit in. I wore prosthetics that hurt my legs and were so hard to use, I bought the clothes the other kids were wearing but people still stared and made fun of me.” Talli found punk rock in high school. “I would listen to these songs and think f**k the system. They were very raw, very empowering. Then one day I thought f**k it. I’m going to try to stand out. I dyed my hair pink, took off the prosthetics and instead of hiding my scooter had it custom painted pink with skulls on it. Now I am always smiling, and no-one feels sorry for me.”

Talli’s proud attitude even caught Richard Branson’s attention. She was working for Virgin mobile and, not surprisingly, had won the award for best customer service globally. At the awards dinner in London, she was brought over to have her photo taken with Richard, he looked down and said, “I like your mohawk.” During the dessert course he appeared at Talli’s table. “Dessert was this amazing chocolate cake, the most decadent I’ve ever had. I was eating it using a fork under my dress strap. While we were talking Richard asked me, ‘how are you doing that?’ I took a bite and showed him. Then he looked me in the eye, opened his mouth really wide and I scooped up some cake and fed Richard Branson!” Later that night he invited Talli to his private island, Necker, in the Bahamas. She didn’t tell many people figuring he’d forget, but a week later the phone rang with a call from his assistant. She flew to Necker for ‘celebration week’. One evening when Richard joined Talli for dinner, she mentioned her dream of becoming an inspirational speaker. The next day she was connected with Richard Branson’s speaking agent. When Talli launched her website, Richard offered a video testimonial calling her one of the ten most inspirational people he’d ever met (the list includes the Dalai Lama).

But even Talli’s infectious enthusiasm was almost defeated by the pandemic. Recently having separated from her partner and two step-children, she suddenly found herself living alone and completely isolated, except for Miso. Talli could hardly leave the house as she has to do everything with her mouth, including pulling out her credit card. Her energy and humour hide the daily struggles, but just like the rest of us, there are days when Talli, despite her ‘body neutrality’ doesn’t love her body. “I work out to stay fit and feel strong but the more I work out, the more pain I’m in.” Talli recently discovered CBD and while she’s still too cautious to ingest it (she doesn’t even drink), she now takes CBD baths. “I am very sore at the end of the day, and I find CBD really helps. It’s magic.” Talli deserves a little magic after all the positive sparkle she spreads into the world. As NOFX says, “She don’t need knuckles or hands to go see punk rock bands. She’s always in the stands. She’s Nubs.”

Interested in hearing more of Talli’s story? You can find her here.

Sorry, you’re not quite old enough to know if Jonathan Adler designs dirty but lives clean.

But we will be here waiting for you.

In this light it’s hard
 to tell how old you are,
 can we ask your age flattering isn’t it?

Are you of legal age in your province?