When I was struck down with a severe case of ME in my late teens, I never thought I’d be where I am today. To go from being paralysed, unable to move or talk, reliant on carers, to where I am now – able to campaign for awareness of ME and disability in general, as well as becoming a disabled model, it’s all quite overwhelming.
I remember when I first realised my illness was so severe that I needed to use a wheelchair and mobility aids, it was scary and it was hard to accept. You never expect it to happen to you, especially because I had always been so active growing up, but that’s the thing about the disabled population, it’s the world’s largest minority of which anyone can become part of at any time. The more I began to accept my situation the more I wanted to make a positive out of a negative.
I started to see how under represented we are as a community, particularly within the fashion industry and media. I’ve always had a big interest in fashion, and it angered and upset me that disabled people were rarely, often never considered within advertising and marketing. Online shops, catwalks, even editorials and fashion photographers were missing out on this huge market. There are over 11 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability within the UK. All of them need to wear clothes, so the question I always found myself asking was, why was nobody considering such a large group of people?
We need people to look up to, people we can relate to, and we need to see REAL disabled people, no gimmicks or able bodied models posing with some crutches for a couple of hours.
I began campaigning for more disabled models to be used within the fashion industry, and I started creating my own photo shoots which I put on my blog. The response was amazing and I soon started to receive more and more comments from people saying I should look into modelling myself. I’d been campaigning for it, so I thought why not put myself out there and try and become one of the people I so desperately wanted to see being represented and treated equally? We don’t want to be treated differently and we are not asking for special treatment, just to be respected and treated as equals. I’m doing this to show that we are not invisible and we do matter. I want to show that we can still have dreams and fulfill them even if we do have limitations.
Something worth pointing out is that disabled models do have a place and they do resonate with people. A perfect example of this is Scope’s recent Retail stock appeal featuring Jack Eyers, a disabled model. It was their most successful retail appeal, generating 1.2 million donations, whilst also raising the issue of the lack of disabled people in the media and fashion industry. You can’t argue with figures like that.
My hope for the future is for disabled models to be the norm, for new generations to grow up regularly seeing disabled models. It’s time to make a change.