MEETING GEMMA FLANAGAN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR MODELS WITH DISABILITIES, IS ENLIGHTENING. SHE IS GLAMOROUS, TOTALLY CHARMING, ENGAGING, DEDICATED TO HER CAUSE, AND BEYOND CAPABLE, WHICH MADE ME PONDER ON WHAT ARTIFICIAL LIMITS ARE PUT ON PEOPLE DEEMED DISABLED.
Gemma explained some of the aspirations that started this movement for equality of opportunity. Models of Diversity was established in 2008 by CEO Angel Sinclair, who after a career as a model realised that there was a certain lack of diversity within fashion. Regardless of age, size, shape, gender, ethnicity or disability, she believes if someone has what it takes to be a model then they should not be held back by any un-necessary potential barriers.
There’s a tour and a petition campaign seeking regulatory representation of disability within fashion. Gemma has battled an illness that left her relying on a wheelchair and/or crutches. The Models with Disabilities team don’t want special treatment, the petition campaign is asking for disability to be represented regularly within fashion, which unfortunately isn’t the case at the moment within the UK: there are rare appearances, but the team is determined to expand those opportunities.
There’s a growing movement looking for positive change: the Director of Models with Disability, Chelsey Jay, who uses a wheelchair due to a condition called POTS, and the team all share a passion to show that as models they are just as talented and more than able to do justice to beautiful clothes, as they were before disabling illnesses. It’s a powerful aspiration and something to celebrate: they are keenly interested in fashion, potential purchasers of fashion, and they want to engage with the fashion industry, and be a vibrant part of it.
The Models with Disabilities team is on a tour of the UK, to get support in their home towns and gather momentum and support as they progress. Gemma and her colleagues spent a Saturday in Liverpool, out in the cold, in high spirits, meeting lots of enthusiastic supporters and spreading the word. It’s time they came in from the cold.
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Words: Jean Hill