Disabled Model Says Fashion “Still Has A Long Way To Go” Toward Diversity


Meet Kelly Knox. She is a London-based model who has worked for major brands such as Debenhams, Proctor and Gamble, appeared in Marie Claire magazine, and has even walked the runway in Beijing, China for a huge beauty event. You’d think she is just another one of those gorgeous waif-like girls who hasn’t got a care in the world, but in fact she is one of those rare exceptional models who stands for something other than just physical beauty.

The 29 year old was actually born without her left forearm, which means by conventional fashion industry standards she is an “anomaly”. The real reason she is pursuing a modeling career is because she wants to change those standards and promote diversity within the industry.

Five years ago she came first in a reality TV show competition on the BBC called ‘Britain’s Missing Top Model’ which is a modeling show featuring women who all have disabilities of some sort.

Despite winning the show, and having major opportunities opened up to her because of that, she told the Daily Mail she was treated differently because of her disability. It made her frustrated and angry, and she realized something had to be done about the way women were treated if they didn’t fit into a narrow definition of “beauty” in the fashion industry.


But working on some major jobs as she had, Kelly knew that there was nothing wrong with her being a disabled model and she wanted to show the rest of the world, and the industry that if big brands are willing to use an “unconventional” model like her, then why should she be shoved into a niche category?

“Modelling for P&G Beauty is my proudest modelling career moment. I was so honored to be recognized and embraced as a model by a global leading company. Surely this is a message to all brands, fashion magazines and advertisers,” she says.

“There is still a long way to go and there’s so much more I should be – and want to be – doing,” she says. “Disability is almost invisible in the fashion and beauty industries – it’s very frustrating, but I believe in me and the message behind my work and I’m determined to make changes in the industry.”The top model counts charity work as something very important to her. She is a programme coordinator for Shape Arts, a disability led arts organization, and is also an ambassador for REACH, an association for children with upper limb deficiency.

“In my eyes, my role as an ambassador is to spread positivity, increase self esteem and confidence, encourage the young reach members to follow their dreams, to know that they are beautiful and difference is something to be proud of,” she says.


When it comes to fashion, she thinks the industry still has some work to do if they want to represent real consumers.

“We need positive disabled role models. Disability has been accepted in sport and TV but fashion has a long way to go,” she says.

While she, along with us and many many people around the world, want to see changes happen in fashion and beauty, Kelly won’t stop doing her part in the meantime.

“I get inundated with emails from young teenagers born with a hand missing saying how inspired they are by my images. They say I give them strength, confidence, boost their self esteem and encourage them to follow their dreams. I’m also asked for advice a lot, which I always take time out to give. This is what drives me in my work.”

Since being asked to be part of the beauty event for P&G in China earlier this year which was all about the “future of beauty” and “creating new pathways” Kelly believes more than ever what she is doing is important, and that is in her position for a reason. Being supported by the Models of Diversity organization, and having signed with disability initiative VisABLE, the first professional talent agency in the UK representing only actors and models with disabilities, means she is well on her way to something much bigger than a modeling career.

She is truly an ambassador for diversity, and a champion for girls who think they can’t do something simply for the way they look or because of a disability. Kelly’s experiences and statements are going to encourage so many others to be proud of who they are and look upon their differences as an advantage to stand out and spread a meaningful message.
“Beauty is diverse and individuality should be celebrated and embraced.”



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