Life as a wheelchair model
I’ve always loved to perform. When I was between the ages of 16 -18, I belonged to a drama school. At the time, I was very overweight, and as a result of this, I was incredibly shy. I started life modelling (posing nude for artists while they draw you) to try and overcome my insecurities and build my confidence levels. To begin with I modelled fully clothed, and although I wasn’t yet ‘baring all’, I found it really helped me to accept my body. When I became disabled at 26 years of age, I lost myself completely and became trapped – not only in the chair, but also inside my own head. I began to hate my body, and all that it represented. I would change in the dark and never in front of people, I would close my eyes when my carers washed or showered me. I couldn’t bare to acknowledge my physical state.
In 2015, after loosing a significant amount of weight, I had a bad fall which kept me in hospital over Christmas. During this period I thought long and hard about my life, and the role I had to play in this world. I felt like a drain on society, I felt like it wasn’t fair for people to have to look after me, just because of this one incident that had changed my life forever! But then it dawned on me; I had to get out of the negative headspace I was in, and start to view and use my body positively. A friend of mine told me I looked beautiful and that I should go back to life modelling. I laughed at her when she said it, but after thinking about it long and hard, I decided she was right. When I got out of hospital I started to exercise my legs in bed, naked. I watched all my muscles working, and felt really proud that I had not given up. I started to appreciate my naked body; I began to like my curves and ‘wobbly’ bits. I’m not perfect but damn, I’ve been through hell and survived! My body is definitely stronger because of it. Six months on, I am slowly reentering the world of life-modelling. It isn’t easy, but I’m giving it a good go – I won’t let it defeat me! The first time I took my clothes off in front of all of those strangers I wasn’t nervous at all! I felt euphoric and liberated. I was beaming inside. The fact that a wheelchair user was naked, and being drawn by so many people felt empowering. I felt free for the first time in my life. However, I have lost out on many modelling jobs because of my disability. Once employers find out the chair is a permanent thing and not a prop, it changes their perception of me. It is like I am not ‘allowed’ to be naked, because I do not fit the normative mold. I blame the media for perpetuating and promoting this one-dimensional representation of the body. In reality, we are all different and that is what makes us beautiful. This year I am going to start filming.
I have been casted as the lead in a film call The House Rules. I never thought this could happen, but I am so pleased that my hard work is paying off. I just hope to can inspire other wheelchair users to take life by the horns and do what ever they want. This is the year for me. Written by Fuchsia Carter