10. Jamie Brewer
Most famously known as an actress in TV show American Horror Story, Jamie Brewer became the first model with Down syndrome to walk a fashion runway in New York Fashion Week when she walked in Carrie Hammer’s “Role Models Not Runway Models” show in 2015.
9. Rafi Solaiman
Agency: Zebedee Management
Rafi Solaiman is a 17-year-old making big changes in the modelling industry. At just 12 years old, he suffered a brain haemorrhage, meaning he had to learn how to talk and walk again; his memory was also severely affected. He now speaks with a speech impediment and needs a walking frame or a wheelchair to get around but doesn’t let that stop him from achieving his dream of being a model. Rafi has walked a runway in a charity show and has appeared in a CBBC documentary called My Life: Changing the Face of Beauty. He intends to pursue a runway modelling career.
8. Paola Antonini
Paola Antonini is a 24-year-old model and social media influencer from Brazil. In 2014, Paola was hit by a drunk driver, which resulted in her leg being amputated. She now wears a prosthetic leg and didn’t for a moment consider quitting modelling. Paola is featured in marketing campaigns for Neutrogena, The Body Shop, Under Armour, and Nissan, and regularly walks catwalks in Brazil.
Paola is a columnist for Glamour Brazil, has spoken at a TED conference, and is completing a degree in journalism.
7. Rebekah Marine
Agency: Model Mayhem
Known to many as the “bionic model”, Rebekah Marine was born without a right forearm and wears a bionic arm. She has been featured in Time, US Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Nordstrom’s 2015 anniversary catalogue, and People Magazine. She walked the 2016 FTL Moda show in New York Fashion week alongside Gianna Schiavone, a 6-year-old who was born without a left forearm.
6. Madeline Stuart
Agency: Madeline Stuart Management
Madeline Stuart is a 20-year-old model with Down syndrome from Brisbane, Australia. She made history at New York Fashion Week in 2015 in the Hendrik Vermeulen show as one of the first models with Down syndrome to walk the runway. Since then, Madeline has walked in Art Hearts Fashion Week, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week China, Style Fashion Week, Melange Fashion Week, Runway Dubai, Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival, and Birmingham Fashion Week. She has appeared in Vogue, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Women’s Weekly, Elle, New York Times, People, Marie Claire, Huffington Post, and many more. She was also named Model of the Year in 2016.
5. Nina Marker
Agency: Elite Model Management, The Society Model Management
Nina Marker was scouted at a McDonald’s in 2014 and was quickly snatched up by Elite Model Management. She has walked the runway for Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Valentino, Givenchy, Fendi, and Versace, among many others. Nina is an advocate for the Autistic community, as she herself has Asperger’s.
4. Gianna Schiavone
Agency: Runway of Dreams
6-year-old Gianna Schiavone was born without a left forearm, but she doesn’t let her age nor her missing limb hold her back from her dream of being a runway model. Gianna met fellow disabled model Rebekah Marine through the Lucky Fin Project and in 2016, they walked the runway together in the FTL Moda show at New York Fashion Week. Gianna said she loved walking with Rebekah in the show because it made her realise that “there’s not just one me in the world”. Gianna is an ambassador and model for Runway of Dreams.
3. Nicole Kelly
Nicole Kelly is a pageant queen with a bionic left arm. She was crowned Miss Iowa in 2013 and competed in Miss America in 2014, making her one of only two disabled models to compete in the Miss America pageant. She now works as a motivational speaker, educating people about disabilities and what it’s like to live with a disability. She is an ambassador for CoApt, the company that designed her bionic forearm, and the Lucky Fin Project. She also keeps a toe in the modelling pool as a model for the Tommy Hilfiger adult adaptive clothing line.
2. Shaholly Ayers
Agency: Global Disability Inclusion
Shaholly Ayers has always dreamed of being a model. Her big break into the modelling industry came when she was asked to model for Nordstrom’s print catalogue. Following that, Shaholly walked in New York Fashion Week for six consecutive seasons; the first five seasons for FTL Moda and the sixth season for Art Hearts Fashion and CLIO. She has graced the pages of many publications such as GQ Italia, GQ Japan, US Weekly, Glamour, People.com, SHAPE, Women’s Health, and various Nordstrom print catalogues.
1. Elesha Turner
Agency: Models of Diversity, MK Model Management
After suffering a rare form of bone cancer called Parosteal Osteosarcoma in 2014, Elesha Turner had almost all the bones in her left leg replaced with titanium; this means she now relies on a crutch to walk. Elesha was originally signed with Models of Diversity and became one of the faces of the agency alongside Jack Eyers. She was recently picked up by MK Model Management but still models in campaigns for Models of Diversity.