Advocating for the representation of people with disabilities, a 30-year-old student from University of Glasgow who has lost both her legs has begun forging a modeling career.
Stacy Paris had suffered from a rare illness caused by a flesh-eating bug. Now, Paris wants to turn the results of the illness into something positive.
Statistics show that one in six people living in the United Kingdom has a disability, but Paris notes that there seems to be no disabled models in the fashion industry.
"We're not saying, 'Give us all work,'" said Paris. "We are saying, 'Represent us, and give us a chance.'"
Paris, who is now in the second year of her molecular biology degree, is the first Scot to be recruited for the Models of Diversity. This advocacy is urging the government to force agencies to represent one disabled model for every five able-bodied models.
Breaking Into The Modeling Industry
When Paris was starting out, she said she had no role model to look up to. This rings true for others who also have disabilities.
There are only a few examples of disabled models taking to the catwalk. In 2015, Jillian Mercado, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, was contracted by IMG Models. This was the same modeling agency that signed up supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
Aside from Mercado, there is also 18-year-old Madeline Stuart, who has Down syndrome. Stuart was named as the face of GlossiGirl, a cosmetics brand.
Michael O'Brien of The Model Team, a leading Scottish modeling agency, said he would not say no to representing a disabled model, especially because they treat models as equals on an individual basis.
However, the director, who has worked in Scotland for a decade, said the problem is a question of demands. He said they have never had enquiries from clients looking for a disabled model.
Still, O'Brien said people with disabilities are well-represented in film and TV industries.
"Perhaps this is a move forward that is just waiting to happen, and we applaud that," he said.
Additionally, O'Brien said the idea of fulfilling the quota is a tough one.
"It begins to sound like tokenism," added O'Brien. "This is a tough industry to break into, whoever you are."
Paris was on holiday seven years ago in the south of France when she developed an ache in her foot. On her return home to Bridge of Allan, she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis. She had spent six days in intensive care fighting for her life.
In the next several years, Paris endured hospital visits and treatments. It resulted in amputation of both her legs below her knee.
Although the doctors have rid Paris of the disease, there is a possibility that it could return. Despite that, Paris said she does not worry about it.
Combining her studies with her advocacy for the cause is hard work, but Paris is very passionate about the campaign.
She recalls the one instance when she spoke to the mother of a little girl who also had had both her feet amputated. The mother told Paris that her daughter's face just lit up when she saw the model's photo.
Paris said it reminded her why she was doing the modeling stint.
"Young girls need to see people like them up there on the catwalks and the television screens," added Paris. She is determined to become the game-changer.