The inclusion of disability and diversity in the fashion industry has been an important topic for some time, with many renowned brands partnering with disabled models to increase diversity within the industry.
And with a reported 14 million disabled people in the UK today, it’s vital that the modelling industry reflects this in its campaigns and on the runway – representing those who are often marginalised.
With that in mind, then, here’s our list of the top 5 best disabled models that are breaking the mould and inspiring change in the fashion industry and beyond.
1. Ellie Goldestein
First on our list of the best disabled models, is Ellie Goldstein – the outgoing eighteen-year-old who became face of Gucci’s Unconventional Beauty Campaign in 2020.
Being the first model with Down Syndrome to represent the Gucci brand, Ellie is inspirational in her representation of disability in the beauty community. Speaking in an interview with British Vogue in July 2020, Ellie explains how it is important to her that, through her position as a model, she can “Let the world see that anyone can model and act with a disability.”
With her recent successes, growing platform, and positive attitude, Ellie Goldstein is certainly one to watch as she continues to broaden representation in the fashion industry.
2. Viktoria Modesta
Bionic pop artist, performer, and model, Viktoria Modesta is revered for her striking sci-fi fashion and her many avant-garde styles.
As an amputee, Viktoria’s prosthesis has become an iconic part of her fashion identity, a symbol of her modelling success and of representation for disability in the fashion industry.
Through her art, Viktoria’s message of empowerment for people with disabilities provides a progressive move forward for those who may not see themselves represented in creative industries like fashion.
Having recently starred in an art film commissioned by Rolls-Royce, Viktoria’s future certainly looks bright, and she continues to challenge fashion stereotypes through her art.
3. Jack Eyers
Providing long-overdue representation for disabled men in the fashion industry, Jack Eyers has had great success in his modelling career over the past few years.
Born with a degenerative condition known as Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), Jack struggled with his confidence, making the decision to have his right leg amputated when he was sixteen.
Having his prosthesis fitted, Jack felt free to do things that he couldn’t do previously and has seized many opportunities. Being the first disabled male model to walk the runway in New York Fashion Week in 2015, London Fashion Week in 2017, and after receiving the title of Mr England, Jack is helping to pave the way for further diversity in the future.
4. Jillian Mercado
Living with muscular dystrophy, Jillian Mercado is changing the fashion scene as one of the first wheelchair users with a modelling career – though this nearly wasn’t the case.
When studying fashion marketing in 2006, Jillian had a desire to become a model, but saw nobody like herself in the industry. Although this could have held her back, Jillian persevered, eventually being picked for a Diesel Jeans campaign – and her career has been growing ever since.
Using her platform to increase awareness about disability and accessibility in fashion, Jillian has said that she will “Do everything that [she] can to make sure that the conversation is still going”, regarding the representation of disability in the fashion industry.
5. Elesha Turner
Our final pick on our list of the five best disabled models of 2020 is Elesha Turner, who began her modelling career following her treatment for Periosteal Osteosarcoma in 2014.
Relying on a crutch to walk post-operation, Elesha began modelling for the Models for Diversity campaign, through which, she has been calling for the inclusion of disabled people in the fashion and beauty industries.
Through her story and career, Elesha continues to challenge people’s perceptions of stereotypical beauty, helping to garner awareness for disability and diversity in the fashion industry.
What’s next for the fashion industry and its quest for diversity?
The five disabled models on our list all have inspiring and courageous stories, each challenging the fashion industries’ relationship with disability and diversity.
Yet, whilst some major brands (such as Gucci, Diesel Jeans, and Tommy Hilfiger) have worked with disabled models in their campaigns, there is still a way to go for diversity in the fashion community.
Hopefully, then, this is a sign of things to come, and the fashion and beauty industries will continue to improve their inclusivity in the future, and that more disabled models will get the representation they deserve.