Kelly Knox was
born without a portion of her left arm. Most people mightve
been discouraged from trying to break into the fashion industry, but
not Knox. She went on to become a model and is helping to broaden
the vision of beauty to include people of all colors, shapes, sizes
and abilities. To broaden the impact, shes teamed up with colleague
Angel Sinclair, founder of United Kingdom-based (UK) Models of Diversity
(MOD). Recently, our own Lia Limón Martirosyan spoke to Knox
about the organizations mission.
Lia Limón Martirosyan: What is your role at MOD?
Knox: Throughout the years Ive helped Angel with loads of different
tasks, such as going out on the street and speaking to the public,
asking them whether they feel there should be more models with disabilities
within the industry, or why they think there is a lack of representation
of people like us. Ive done fashion shoots with Angel, who is
black. Thats not a disability, but models of color are also
underrepresented in fashion.
Martirosyan: Im curious about peoples ideas as to why
theres a lack of models with diverse abilities within the industry.
Knox: Most people say they dont really know why there are so
few in fashion spreads and that they would like to see more.
Martirosyan: How is your team proactive with visiblity within the
Knox: Angel works tirelessly to achieve more diversity within the
industry. Shes always speaking to different brand leaders and
magazines, making more contacts within the industry. She asks them,
Why arent there more models with disabilities? And
she tells them, We have models you can book who are really good
at what they do. Its important for disabilities to become
visible in fashion, so people can be educated and our participation
can be normalized.
Martirosyan: Are there any statistics on how many models with diverse
abilities are currently working in the fashion industry?
Knox: Not that were aware of. Ive been working here for
about five years. I did a 2010 campaign for Debenhams, a major UK
retailer and it included a wheelchair user. Then a month ago, I was
in another one of their campaigns alongside a British paralympian.
I have part of an arm missing and another model, Stephanie, has part
of a leg missing. They also included an older model in her mid-60s;
a black, bald, plus-size model; and a petite model. A second plus-size
model was half-English, half-Arabic, I think. The shoot was a great
model of diversity.
Martirosyan: Wonderful. What does MOD do in general, fashion shows?
Knox: We did a show in London last March. Angel arranged it. Again
there were older models, bigger models and smaller models. Were
out there, fighting for the cause. We really want to be seen, heard
and recognized for the great work MOD does. We have a strong online
presence and about 5,000 Twitter followers. Angels really passionate
about what she does and I am, too. I just think that when you have
passion and youre consistent, people will begin to listen. Were
just going to keep it going.
Martirosyan: Does MOD act as a modeling agency?
Knox: No, but we do have models whose careers we support by promoting
their work to brands, agencies and helping them get the right contacts.
Martirosyan: A liaison between the model and the agency.
Knox: Yes. And if a person does aspire to be a model, Angel will get
them into the studio, dress them up, have their hair and makeup done
and pictures taken, so they have a portfolio to take to agencies.
Martirosyan: How long has Angel been involved with this?
Knox: Since about 2008. She got her inspiration from being on a UK
TV show for Channel 4. I think it was called Miss Naked Beauty. She
was also motivated by her experience as a model of color who faced
discrimination. It made her want to do the campaign and address diversity
as a whole in order to get models of all different shapes, sizes,
colors and abilities accepted and working. She and I connected through
Martirosyan: Tell me what sparked the connection.
Knox: When Angel saw the work Id been doing, it added fuel to
her fire. She recognized that models with disabilities have even less
representation than models of color within the industry.
Martirosyan: When you head out for a go-seean appointment between
a model and a potential clientwhat kind of reactions do you
get from industry professionals?
Knox: Luckily for me, most of my work is through a brand or client
who approaches my agent. Before I began modeling, I never realized
how many barriers there were for people with disabilities within the
industry. I didnt realize how much prejudice and ignorance existed.
That made me even more determined to break down the barriers and to
wake up the industry to the fact that beauty shows up in all different
shapes, sizes and abilities.
Martirosyan: Good for you. So its like belonging to a community.
Knox: Its definitely a community. Were all very passionate
about the cause and about the changes we want to see take place.
Martirosyan: Are you branching out to the United States (US)?
Knox: Definitely. Angel is bringing on a couple of girls from the
US; one is named Holly, and shes from Hawaii. She has a part
of her arm missing and shell be involved in the campaign.
Martirosyan: Thats great. Not that my research has been extensive,
but diversely-abled models are rare in the US.
Knox: Well bring it to you! (laughs) I recently did a fashion
show for the American company P&G Beauty & Grooming in Beijing,
China. It was really amazing to get support from a massive company
such as Proctor & Gamble and be recognized by them. For the record,
though, Ive never used the word disabled. I hate
Martirosyan: Hence, ABILITY Magazine!
Knox: Yes, we all have abilities. I dont want to be recognized
for my disability; I want to be recognized for my ability.
Martirosyan: Exactly. Society loves labels
Knox: Jars should be labeled, not people.
Knox: Its peoples attitudes that need to change.
Martirosyan: If someone wants to start working with MOD, how would
they go about it?
Knox: They would send an email and pictures to Angel, and tell her
a little bit about themselves.
Martirosyan: Can you make a living doing what youre doing?
Knox: I do....... continued
in ABILITY Magazine
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