‘I didn’t see myself as having a disability until I stated modelling,’ says Kelly Knox. ‘My barrier as a model isn’t that I have one hand, it’s the attitude and ignorance of people in the fashion industry.’
Knox, 28, from Enfield, north London, was born without a left hand. ‘The hospital never said why,’ she says. ‘They just told my mum that it’s more common in girls and it’s more common on the left side.’
Knox’s modelling career began when she won TV show Britain’s Missing Top Model in 2008. Her prize comprised a fashion shoot in Marie Claire and she was shot by world-famous photographer Rankin.
Knox has appeared on Gok Wan’s How To Look Good Naked, opened Pakistan Fashion Week, appeared on billboards in Oslo, starred as a zombie in a Samsung internet advert and, most recently, walked the catwalk for the P&G Beauty Trends 2013 fashion show in January this year.
She’s also appearing in a Channel 4 show due to air in October but she’s sworn to secrecy about that.
‘I never wanted to be a model,’ she says. ‘I only entered Britain’s Missing Top Model to inspire people who had disabilities. But I realised I was good at modelling and I really enjoyed it. So I thought I could get out there and challenge people’s perceptions of what it meant to be beautiful.’
Knox says walking the P&G catwalk has been the highlight of her career so far. ‘If a brand as big as that can embrace someone like me as a model, then why can’t other brands?’ she asks.
It’s a good question. And something the Models Of Diversity organisation is campaigning for. It wants to break the fashion industry’s obsession with size-zero culture and promote models of all colour, age and abilities.
In Britain, more than 11million people live with a disability. But in the past six years, there has been only one physically disabled model in a high-fashion campaign, by Alexander McQueen in 1999.
And only five campaigns in mainstream fashion campaigns worldwide: Principles/Debenhams in 2010, DiDi in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2011, Adidas and Marks & Spencer in 2012, and Debenhams in 2013.
‘The words “beautiful” and “disabled” are like chalk and cheese,’ says model, actor and personal trainer Jack Eyers. ‘We need to break down the barriers of what it means to be beautiful. The media has the power to make the changes for people like me but something is holding them back.’ Eyers, 24, from Bournemouth, was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, which means his leg didn’t have any muscle structure or a knee joint.
‘My leg was deformed and I considered myself a freak,’ he says. ‘But my mum always told me to turn a disadvantage into an advantage and after meeting a one-legged stunt man, I decided I could do something about it. I could chop it off.’
Eyers had his leg amputated at the age of 16 and says afterwards he felt liberated. ‘I felt free,’ he adds, smiling happily. ‘Being an amputee opened new doors for me.’
His career highlights include being part of Team GB’s wheelchair basketball team (he didn’t make the final squad), performing as a rope artist in the Paralympic Games opening ceremony, appearing in an advert for Barclays and qualifying as a personal trainer. He’s also in the running for a modelling contract with an online fashion brand.
‘It’s been great doing some fashion modelling,’ he says. ‘But I think the media is scared of using disabled models. The Paralympics were great but they were short-lived. I thought there would more disabled models in the media afterwards. To educate people, you really need to keep on top of it.’
It’s fair to say Eyers has the body of an Adonis, which he treats like a temple – when I offer him some cake he politely declines. ‘Aside from professional athletes, I have never seen a disabled model on the front cover of a fitness magazine,’ he tells me. ‘And that’s my goal.’
‘You’ll do it, Jack,’ Knox chips in. ‘More brands and advertisers need to know there is more than one beauty ideal out there, instead of being so narrow-minded.
‘A good model shouldn’t be defined by the colour of their skin, their size or their disability,’ she adds. ‘If I’m modelling for a beauty campaign, it shouldn’t matter whether I have two hand, one hand or 12.’
source: metro Uk