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Disabled model stars in fashion campaign

Charley-Anne Gordon
Charley-Anne Gordon Image credit: hertfordshiremercury.co.uk

As Charley-Anne Gordon has been in a wheelchair since the age of 16 you may think she has been restricted to live her life to the full, in fact it has motivated her to do the complete opposite.

Now 24, Gordon, from Hitchin, Herts, is a proud champion for people with disabilities after pursuing a modelling career.

She was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome in her teenage years, which she admits can make life a little tough and started to play on her mental health.

Charley-Anne told Herts Live: "I can walk for a little bit on crutches which people often struggle to understand, because they're like: 'If you need a wheelchair, you need a wheelchair, right?' But I do have to use the wheelchair for the majority of the time because if I walk too far, I faint. Mainly, I just hit my head.”

Her condition triggers additional health problems which can cause additional problems in day-to-day life.

"I have a lot of other premorbid conditions," Charley-Anne explained. "Namely, my bladder doesn't work. I have a catheter, which was inserted through the lower part of my abdomen."

Gordon found a new lease of life when she started going to university which boosted her confidence.

“University threw me into the deep end with learning to care for myself," she said. "It also gave me the motivation to do what I wanted to do. I felt awful, but I started to do well with my degree. That made me realise that my life wasn’t over. I could still achieve what I wanted to achieve.

"But I was still very uncomfortable with being disabled. I was very apologetic about using a wheelchair. Wherever you go, you need accommodations and you have to ask for things."

"I had never met anyone else who was disabled"

As her self-esteem grew so did her interest with fashion and becoming more involved in the industry which encouraged Charley-Anne to sign up for photoshoots.

"Before the first shoot," Charley-Anne said, "I had actually never met anyone else, outside of hospital when I was younger, who was disabled."

What didn’t help though were the support groups provided by the hospital which she found quite sombre, in fact she loathed every one of them.

"I really struggled with support group,” she confessed. “I found that they were very clinical and often quite depressing. I absolutely hated that.

"Once I found disabled people who were interested in similar things to me, and meeting them in a different environment, going to the pub to grab a glass of wine and doing things to socialise, that was really important."

The fashion shoots have introduced Charles-Anne to some amazing disabled people and she has recently appeared in s bridal representation campaign organised by Models of Diveristy.

However, when it comes to tying the knot herself she thinks the sound of wedding bells is still a way off.

"I became really interested because my aunt and uncle were getting married and I was bridesmaid. When they first asked me, I was uncomfortable. I didn’t feel comfortable being a bridesmaid in my wheelchair,” Charley-Anne told the publication.

"I started thinking about the bridal industry in general, and if I wanted to get married in the future.

"There’s no representation in the bridal industry at all. When you get people with spinal injuries or braces, the fact that they’ve managed to walk down the aisle at all is what’s celebrated the most."

When it comes to choosing suitable jeans or underwear Charley-Anne has to be cautious as she has to make sure her tube does not get in the way, but just like most disabled people she believes adaptable clothing is the way forward.

"It’s really important. I'm in a place where I am quite secure in myself, and I love seeing disability represented,” she said.

"But for me, it's actually mainly the difference that will make to other young disabled people. If there had been more representation when I was younger, and when I was growing up, and even when I wasn't disabled myself, if my disability was more normalised, I don't think I would have struggled so much when I became disabled.”

Charley-Anne also has a message for disabled people struggling with their self-esteem.

“You have to persevere with it. You have to follow your dreams. Do what you want to. Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you can’t achieve what you want to achieve."

She added: "I think 10 years ago, it would have been really hard for me to actually imagine being this comfortable and this happy.

"But I also think it would have given me a lot of hope that actually, there are some really, really good years ahead of me. Things are just going to get better."

Charley-Anne Gordon studied study a PhD in researching violence against women at university.