31 Days of SMA: Why Being a Disabled Model Still Isn’t Normalized

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SMA News Today

Photo courtesy of Vita Bernik

Day 21 of 31

This is Vita Bernik’s (@wheelchairsparkle) story:

Hey there! My name’s Vita, I’m 23 years old, and I’m from Slovenia. I’m a university student studying criminal justice and security, a blogger, and a model.

In 2019, a photographer reached out to me and asked if I wanted to do a photoshoot with him. I was immediately up for it, although in the past, I never thought about the possibility of me being a model.

When I was younger, I never imagined I’d have any part in the fashion industry. The models were always tall, skinny, and good-looking. I didn’t see anyone with a disability being a model until that slowly started to change.

After the photoshoot, I was signed with a modeling agency in Slovenia.

Since that time, I’ve had to organize my own photoshoots. Customers who look for models for their campaigns usually think it’s great that agencies are inclusive, but they’re not always willing to be inclusive as well. When they try to be, it’s for campaigns about differences, stories, experiences, etc. That’s not normalizing disabled modeling.

As disabled models, we want to be included in modeling with others, and not just because it’s trendy but because it’s how it should be. We deserve job opportunities just like every other model. Remember, disabled people are consumers as well. We shop, wear clothes, travel — everything everyone else does.

It should be completely normal to see a disabled person in an ad, on a poster, and everywhere, really. Until true inclusion is a reality, being a disabled model won’t be normalized. That needs to change, and I hope it does.

SMA News Today’s 31 Days of SMA campaign will publish one story per day for SMA Awareness Month in August. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofSMA, or read the full series.