Ukraine’s first wheelchair model breaks taboos

Ukrainian model Alexandra Kutas gets ready for a fashion shoot (AFP)

Kiev, Ukraine - 

When Alexandra Kutas headlined a recent fashion show in Kiev it was not just a personal dream come true but also a victory for disabled people in her homeland Ukraine. 

Wearing a long, black dress, she wowed the crowd as she was carried across the catwalk on a wooden throne by four trim men, becoming the first model with a disability to take the lead in a high-profile event in the country.

“I had the idea that I wanted to do a catwalk and show that a girl in a wheelchair can be perceived as a first-class professional,” she said.

For 23 year old Kutas, it was the latest stage in a long journey. In a wheelchair since birth due to a spinal cord injury, she had struggled for years to make it as a model in the ex-Soviet state where disabled people all too often get left behind.

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Kutas sent letters to modelling agencies - but the response was always the same polite refusals. In 2012, Kutas was having lunch in a café when a photographer approached her and asked if she wanted to become a model.

She agreed and loved the process of having her picture taken so much that she soon began looking for other photographers to work with.

A video of an 1999 show of Alexander McQueen, where Aimee Mullins, a world-class Paralympic athlete, modelled in his statuesque and beautiful prosthetic legs inspired her.

When the Italian house FTL Moda invited models with disabilities to participate in New York Fashion Week recently, Kutas felt that the world was finally ready for a change.

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