Blake Beckford isn’t someone who would normally appear as a ‘torso of the week’ model. He certainly has a six pack, manly tattoos and rippling biceps. So why is he not likely to be featured? Because he has an ostomy bag. Read on to see how Blake has broken into modeling and how he hopes his example will make a difference to what the media portrays as the ‘norm’.
Please could you tell DH readers a bit about yourself and how your career started as a fitness model?
As a child I was a budding athlete and had huge dreams of being in the fitness industry and competing at every level. I was determined to make it big in the world of fitness, and trained fiercely until my early 20s.
However, I started to lose body weight and muscle mass, became incredibly fatigued and started losing blood when going to the toilet. I was then diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I battled bowel disease for 10 years, with time spent in and out of hospital.
In 2012 I became incredibly unwell and had to have my large bowel removed. After 6 weeks in hospital, I had an ileostomy, where the small bowel is diverted through a small opening in the stomach, and having been fed intravenously the entire time, I lost 2.5 stone in weight.
Being so unwell made me determined to reach for my dreams of being in the fitness industry. So in January 2014 I got myself back in the gym. Initially after my surgery my confidence was knocked. I didn’t recognise myself anymore.
But after a few months training I did a photoshoot for myself, mainly to boost to my confidence and to be able to see how far I had come. Friends and family pushed me to share the images with the world, and that’s how I am here today.
You did some modelling for Men’s Fitness magazine – can you tell us how it came about?
They contacted me via Twitter a few months ago and, I have to say, it was an honour to be asked to be featured in the magazine. It’s a magazine I have always read, so to be in it was incredible!
What does your daily exercise regime involve?
I am committed – up every day at 6am. As I live in a hilly area it means I can easily get outside for hill walking or cycling. I also incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into my regime. If it’s a gym day I will spend about 3 hours at the gym and work on a split routine.
What advice would you give disabled people who wish to take up modelling?
Go for it! We need to keep on showing the media that we should be in magazines and the public eye. We need to embrace our bodies and help inspire others, like us, to show that we can achieve whatever we want too.
What advice do you have for disabled people who wish to be fit and healthy, but don’t know where to go or where to start?
The most important thing I’ve learnt is to take your time and ease yourself into it. After my recovery I went to the gym and saw these huge guys, which instantly made me think I should push myself hard to catch up. But it’s not a race, just take your time and make sure you speak with a medical professional before doing sport.
Also, diet is really important. Make sure your eating a well balanced diet and eat regularly. When I started out I did yoga at home, then added walking around the block, which I built into a jog. Once I built up a little stamina, I went back to the gym. There are lots of options of small or bigger forms of exercise out there, so figure out what will work for you, and what you will enjoy – it’s a lot harder to stick to if you don’t enjoy it.
What’s your favourite food?
It has to be chicken with sweet potato, or I love an omelette with spinach, tomatoes, spring onions, red peppers and feta.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To keep on raising awareness of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and living with an ostomy, and that no matter what we can achieve our goals and dreams. I want to show mainstream media and publications that we should be all over magazines as models or public figures and that there is no stigma in having an ostomy bag.
You are campaigning to raise awareness of IBD, can you tell us what your doing at the moment to raise awareness of the condition?
I am working with charities such as The Ileostomy Association, Crohn’s and Colitis UK and the Breakaway Foundation. I am also hoping to continue modelling to raise the profile of IBD and having an ostomy, as well as blogging about living with my condition and the day to day life challenges it brings. I am also selling T-shirts to support The Breakaway Foundation – 50% of the proceeds goes to the Breakaway Foundation. You can find them on my website: www.blakebeckford.co.uk.
If anyone wishes to support the campaign how can they get involved?
I launched the #FightWithBlake campaign on Twitter, which I am happy to see people using to help raise the profile of IBD. People have also been sharing their stories with others too, along with pictures of people wearing the T-shirts.