Some women won't dare step out without lipstick, let alone walk the ramp without an arm. Over the past few days, an amputee model known as "The Bionic Woman" has become an international sensation by walking the runway for Mumbai-designer Archana Kochhar under the FTL Moda show at the ongoing New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2015.
What makes Rebekah Marine special is that she was born without her right forearm, but has made it big in an industry that is obsessed with perfection. The full-time model isn't what many would call their "first choice" for the klieg lights - though she is attractive, intelligent and confident, she is fitted with a prosthetic arm called "i-limb quantum" which helps her move her hand and fingers through the electrodes in her prosthesis. The limb picks up signals from her muscles.
What drives her? In an interview to the TIME magazine, Rebekah said, "Growing up, I was just such a ham for the camera; modelling was a natural choice for me." In another one with ABC News, she spoke of her arm: "It gives what I'm doing more of an edge, so I think it's pretty cool. A lot of kids think I'm a superhero now."
She is also a motivational speaker on the side, and brand ambassador for the prosthetic arm company, Touch Bionics.
Her story bears parallels with Canadian model, Chantelle Brown-Young aka Winnie Harlow, a contestant of America's Next Top Model 2014 who was diagnosed with the chronic skin condition vitiligo at the age of four. The loss of melanin pigment spread to her face, arms, torso and legs creating pristine white patches on her brown skin.
|Winnie Harlow developed vitiligo at the age of four.|
Growing up, she was called names like "cow" and "zebra", which led her to changing school, verbal and physical bullying, and finally dropping out at the age of 16.
In an essay for Cosmopolitan magazine, she wrote, "A journalist in Toronto named Shannon Boodram saw my Facebook page and told me I was 'strikingly beautiful'. She shot a YouTube video of me, and it made a hit, grabbing thousands of views."
Modelling had never seemed like an option for Winnie until then, but this made her dream. Even though agents didn't consider her pretty, she posted pictures of herself on social media site, Instagram, networked and auditioned for shows.
"It's amazing what a little encouragement can do," she wrote, "After doing the video, I realised I could use my unique look as an asset." She has since landed campaign shoots for brands like Diesel and Desigual (for which she is also the brand ambassador), and is a spokesperson for vitiligo.
Closer home, acid-attack victim Laxmi decided to reclaim her beauty by stepping out after years of depression, and becoming the face of strength for other victims. She has shot fashion campaigns and walked as the showstopper for designer Dolly J at the India Runway Week last year. She has even been awarded the US Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award 2014.
|Laxmi is a role model in her own way.|
In an age of manufactured beauty, insecurities, Photoshopped features, and style icons who don't even look like themselves any more, such examples stand out. What's there to learn from those who display their under-confidence conspicuously? Let's face it: Kim Kardashian has transformed like a mutant before our eyes, Madonna could write a thesis on surgeries, and Anushka Sharma's pout can inspire chefs to invent new roast duck recipes.
Attraction lies in the strength of will, knowing one's self, and a deeper appreciation of one's own beauty and life. It is the women who have made their mark despite rejection who are the real role models. We're all peculiar in our own way. In American author Edgar Allan Poe's words: "There is no exquisite beauty… Without some strangeness in the proportion."