Guest Blog: Gemma Flanagan, model and disability campaigner
In 2011, I was loving life in my dream job, travelling the world as Cabin Crew, when I became ill with Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) & Miller Fisher Syndrome. I was left at my worst, completely paralysed, in intensive care and then remained in hospital and an intensive rehabilitation unit for a total of 9 months. I had to learn to do all basic tasks again and try to rebuild my body. I am now left with muscle / nerve damage and weakness in my core, hips, legs and back as a result of my GBS. It has left me reliant on a wheelchair and crutches to get around and has given me a whole new outlook on myself and life. I could no longer carry on my dream job or carry on with things how I used to, I had to come to terms with a totally new me and body.
After leaving hospital, I discovered an organisation called Models of Diversity, who are a not for profit organisation that campaign to get a greater representation of diversity within fashion and media. I had done modelling in the past, and always enjoyed it, I never imagined that I would be now pursuing a career as a disabled model. I had to come to terms with a totally new body image of myself, which has been hard, and Models of Diversity helped me to realise that I was still me, just in a slightly different body, with some new accessories!! Still a glamorous girl, who loves everything fashionable and fabulous.
I now campaign alongside Models of Diversity, to try to make change come about within fashion and media, as currently there is no permanent representation of people with disabilities, like myself, in fashion or media. There is such a strong population in the UK living with disabilities, that it is crazy that we are not represented. We still want to wear the clothes and use the products so why are we not included on a regular basis within adverts, marketing and media?!
I am so passionate about individuals and models with disabilities being represented within society. Change will happen, once people realise that as disabled models we are more than capable of holding our own within the fashion world and that we can produce just as high quality, captivating and sale-able images than any other models!!!
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