Here at Disability Horizons, we’re always looking for new ways to share insights and experiences from the many brilliant disabled bloggers and influencers across the world. So, as we get into the swing of 2019, we’ve got a number of well-known disabled writers to contribute to our DHorizons Tribe Facebook group, as well as website. First up is model, para-athlete and inclusivity ambassador, Samanta Bullock.
Having always loved fashion, Brazilian-born Samanta started her career as a model at the age of just 8. But in 1992, at the age of 14, her life changed after a bullet left her paraplegic. She certainly didn’t let that stop her pursuing her passions.
After recovering, in 2003 she started focusing on her other love – wheelchair tennis. She became a para-athlete representing Brazil, competing at a high level and winning a doubles silver medal at the 2007 Para Pan Am Games.
She later returned to her first love of fashion, and taken part in a number of high-profile catwalk shows across the world, including Portugal, Brazil, Spain and Turkey, as well as the UK. Her main aim now is to encourage designers to be inclusive and ensure disabled people are represented.
She also has a passion for staying fit and active, whether that’s playing tennis, socialising in stylish hot spots or trying out adventurous sports. She wants to be a role model for the next generation of disabled people, inspiring them to have a healthy and full lifestyle, no matter what their disability, and loving their body.
Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll see Samanta sharing her lifestyle tips on our exclusive DHorizons Tribe Facebook group. It’ll include healthy eating tips, recommendations of accessible places to visit, fashion finds and activities you’ll want to try yourself. Simply sign up to our free DHorizons Tribe to take a look.
But first, to introduce you to Samanta, she’s shared her open letter to the world of fashion on how it needs to be more inclusive and truly represent disabled people across the industry.
Samanta’s open letter to the world of fashion
In this day and age, it is not enough to have simply survived life’s obstacles – or even to have thrived despite them. For me, as a paraplegic model, ambassador, para-athlete, wife, and woman, to live my best life is to embrace my challenges.
Every day I accept myself. My legs, though at times I dislike them, are mine. Although I don’t see them represented or reflected in the magazines and stores I browse in, they are here to stay. I’ve learned to love my body for all that it is.
But still in these modern times, and despite great progress towards diversity, it feels that there is much to be done to convince fashion to respect bodies like mine.
There are people like me all over the world, growing up without any reference to their part or place in society, without seeing others like ourselves, living a full and fulfilling life. It is as though having a disability is to be invisible. To have the full spectrum of who you are and who you could potentially become, ignored.
Beyond navigating the stigma, misconceptions, prejudice and doubts about what I, as a disabled person, can achieve, I am putting my heart and soul into making sure that I see myself represented. I want to make the industry I’ve worked in for 30 years more inclusive.
My drive comes from my experiences growing up, working as a model in Brazil, having my accident and then feeling like my dreams had been taken away from me. But instead of being hopeless, that stage in my life lead me to the next – to becoming number one tennis champion in Brazil and to being signed to a modelling agency. I’ve been the face for top brands, such as the BBC and Toyota, and featured on the runways, including London Fashion Week.
Now, I’m channelling my passions towards making a difference in an industry that should embrace and celebrate disabled bodies. I challenge myself to work fearlessly in fashion, so that others like me feel confident. I want disabled people to see that they can do more than just survive their own obstacles – they can thrive and embrace them too.
I want the next generation of disabled children and adults to see people just like them, working in all aspects of the fashion industry. I want to see disabled designers, stylists, makeup artists and photographers involved in major brands and fashion shows.
In fashion’s future, there’s a place for blind and partially sighted people, deaf people, people in wheelchairs, people with learning disabilities – disabled people who have all sorts of abilities.
I would like to work with all stakeholders in the industry to make fashion reflect society more accurately, and to create an environment wherein everybody feels welcome. Yes, we have the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, River Island and ASOS to admire for their work towards this change. We also have disabled models like Kelly Knox and Madeline Stuart to inspire a new generation of models.
But I would like to see the leadership of these brands and the power of these people’s stories motivating the entire fashion industry. Today, it is not enough to leave the weight of inclusion on the shoulders of a few key players.
Inclusion is about surviving and thriving together, embracing each other. Inclusion is about everybody – including you.
Look out for Samanta’s posts on our DHorizons Tribe Facebook group. Get involved, join in the fun and be inspired – what are you waiting for?!
You can also find out more about Samanta Bullock by visiting her website.
By Samanta Bullock
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