These Kids and Adults Model Self-Love and Show the Beauty of Limb Differences
In April, 19 Zebedee models from ages 2 to 54 took part in this stunning body confidence shoot with photographer Elise Dumontet.
All the models have either been born with a limb difference or had an amputation. The images are a celebration of their self-love and their body acceptance.
Whether their difference is acquired (through cancer, meningitis, accident, diabetes, military veterans) or congenital, they really don’t want to fall on their feet anymore. They simply want to be able to stand tall, with and/or without prosthetics. We all know positive representation matters, be it in the arts, in fashion or in the media. And yet, these models can probably count on their fingers how many times they’ve seen themselves represented. Should the shoe ever be on the other foot, how would that make you feel?
Did you know there are about 30 million amputees in the world, over 100,000 in the U.K. alone, with 5,000 amputations performed in the U.K. every year?
“I was born with a limb difference where my arm ends very shortly below my right elbow. I grew up on a farm in a small town in Central Florida with my twin sister, riding horses and competing. I struggled a lot with bullies in school, insecurity about having one arm and thought I was the only one in the world who was born with a limb difference.
Back then we didn’t have access to the internet and no one on TV, radio, clothing ads looked like me so I thought I was alone. I used to wear long sleeve shirts and jackets so I could tuck my sleeve into my pockets so no one noticed (even though I lived in Florida where it was hot all year round). But even then I suffered from people calling me a “one-armed freak,” not playing with me on the playground, and even a guy telling me that he would date me if I had another arm. It was really hard trying to fit in, but it’s even harder when you’re physically different. That’s why to me it’s so important to have Limb Difference Awareness Month and representation in the media!
I didn’t like the way that I felt as a kid and I don’t want any other child growing up with the same thoughts in their head as I had. It’s important to be yourself, be different and stand out! Even though I still face issues today regarding my limb difference, I hope to pave the way for the next generation.”
Ashley recently modeled for Paper Magazine.
“It’s so important to raise awareness about limb differences as amputees are often misrepresented within the media. The world is generally focused on creating the ‘perfect image’ while others try desperately to fit into that category. While others fight for that, I strive to be individual – to be myself. By raising awareness about limb loss and limb differences, it allows others to embrace difference and find beauty within it. Difference is beautiful and our differences allow us to educate and empower others who may also be experiencing a difference.
As an individual with a limb difference, I’m often stared at and questioned by members of the public. I am very used to experiencing this, but I hope with more exposure, people wouldn’t feel the need to question me and stare. After spending 14 years in a wheelchair, I actively sought an amputation to allow me to walk (and run). I chose to have a limb difference – I chose to allow myself to be different in order to improve my life chances.I am different, I am handsome and I have a limb difference.”
Chantelle is interested in the creative and performing arts, specializing in acting, dancing, and music. A keen sportswoman, she enjoys swimming, tennis and netball. Chantelle has a through the knee amputation and has a full left leg prosthesis.
Mollie enjoys a range of sports and activities, such as netball, gymnastics, free running, ballet, tap dancing and trampolining. Mollie has a hand difference.
“I embrace my prosthetic; I wear it with the same pride as a gorgeous pair of shoes. I never cover it. I get annoyed if people don’t notice it. It tells a story about my life; please feel free to ask me about it. I understand my level of visibility isn’t for every amputee. Each has their own story, their own way of dealing with it, but attitudes have changed and it’s OK to put it on show. It’s beautiful.”
Andrew is a trained hair dresser and did all the hair on the shoot day.
“I am 26 years old and was diagnosed with bone cancer located in my right femur in July 2016, two months after my son was born. After two cycles of chemotherapy, doctors saw that the treatment was not proving as effective as hoped, so in November that year, I had to make the decision to have my leg amputated to decrease the chances of it coming back. I use a prosthesis since April 2017.”
Not afraid of a challenge, Marleen is always looking for a new adventure. She is from the Netherlands but has been living in Madrid for over 12 years. She is a proud mom of two boys and loves to travel. When she was 13 she contracted bacterial meningitis. She almost lost her life and was in the hospital for eight months. She had over 30 surgeries, spent three months in intensive care, and received five liters of new blood, uncountable scars and saw loads of doctors and specialists.
In 2016 after many attempts to improve the pain in her left foot, she decided to amputate her lower left leg. It was a difficult decision to make, but has gotten her good results. The first year was really tough, but after a year the pain was mostly gone and she started snowboarding. She recently also started running and she loves to dance as well. It has been a long journey to get where she is now, but she feels she is also just beginning. In the winter she loves to to snowboard and to improve her skills on the mountains.
She has recently started modeling and acting. Instead of being ashamed of her scars and leg, she shows it off. She feels it is important to be an example to other people who somehow feel different. She wants everyone to know it is OK to be different.
Marleen can be seen in the Mercedes-Benz commercial “In the Long Run.”
“Losing my arm and shoulder has been unequivocally the best thing that’s happened to me. It’s important to raise awareness about limb differences as it’s only once you lose the use of a limb through, in my case, traumatic amputation, that you realize just how much you rely on even a finger or a thumb. I have never faced any direct negative issues, however it does get frustrating when I get on the tube and people in the disabled seats look at me, realize they’re sitting where they are but then carry on with what they’re doing. If someone is pregnant, elderly or even has a disability themselves, I always offer my seat, because manners cost nothing!”
Mark is an ex-serviceman who enjoys extreme sports. He is an active dinghy/yacht sailor, and also partakes in wing walking and parachuting. Elsewhere, Mark is an antique dealer, so Lovejoy had better watch his back. Mark is a double below knee amputee and uses prosthetics.
Monty likes snowboarding, cycling, swimming, running and shooting. On the creative side of things, he plays clarinet, piano, guitar, and is also a DJ. Monty is a left leg below knee amputee from fibrous dysplasia.
Daniel has some high profile experience under his belt, having worked with the BBC, Guinness Book of Records and SquareEnix. His interests are graphic novels, narrative-driven video games, sci-fi movies, doing accents and funny voices, and 3D design and printing. Daniel was born without a right hand due to a condition called amelia.
“I wasn’t born with one leg. I became an amputee aged 30 following an accident. Some people thought if I had children they would be amputees too, but my difference isn’t due to a genetic condition. Becoming an amputee was extremely hard at first back in the 1990s because different meant “outsider,” “not normal,” “weirdo.” People stared at me with shocked judgmental expressions and would wonder how I could possibly get on with life, let alone have children.
Raising awareness and increasing representation is so important to challenge misconceptions. We never know what life is going to throw at us. Life-changing injuries are exactly that, but it doesn’t mean your life is over. Help is out there for physical support, but the rest is up to you. Life in the 21st century is better for people with differences. I want to show society that I have a positive outlook and self-determination to be happy. I have two healthy children with two legs each and feel no less a person with only one leg. I’ve gained more in confidence and inner strength having lost my leg than I ever did with two legs.”
Nancy has had lots of work through Zebedee as well as being a cover girl for Grazia U.K.
Kiryn was born with an atypical cleft hand on the left. She likes to challenge herself doing things that normally require both hands.
“We found out at my 20 week scan that Neisha was missing her lower right leg. Just as we were coming to terms with the news, a week and a half later, my water broke and I was taken into hospital for an ‘imminent miscarriage.’ Thankfully, despite a couple of delayed labors, Neisha hung on until 27 weeks gestation and was born weighing 2 pounds 1 ounce. She was a very ill little girl. At one point her weight dropped to 1lb 15oz. She struggled to breathe on her own and was ventilated for a few weeks. When medical staff tried to step down her breathing support Neisha struggled, and we were told we were getting to the point were nothing else could be done. The intensive care journey was a rocky ride of infection after infection, veins that collapsed due to so many cannulas, slow weight gain and endless worry, but she defied the odds and came home 12 weeks later weighing 6-and-a-half pounds.
At 8 months she received her first prosthetic. She was so small the foot had to be ordered from America and filed down to be the right size. She finally walked at 18 months old and has gone from strength to strength. She has struggled, physically and mentally. She has had numerous operations to revise her stump as the bone keeps growing and causing pain. She has smiled because she is special and cried because she is different. She is loving, kind and touches the lives of everyone she meets. She never has a bad word to say about anyone, is fiercely loyal and will not hear anyone being called or made to feel upset. She constantly thinks of others and wants to help wherever she can. She is strong and determined, yet humble and gracious.
Last year she started attending Hartlepool Hawks Cheerleading Academy. Since then her confidence has grown in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun). She is in seven teams including cheer, pom, stunting, paracheer and dance at national and European level. She and her teammates have done amazingly well this season, winning numerous competitions and qualifying for the European Cheerleading Championships in Germany in July. She is determined to show that having a disability doesn’t have to stop you achieving your dreams. At every competition someone has approached her to tell her how inspirational she is, yet to her she’s just doing the same as everyone else who is there.
Being in front of the camera is new for Neisha, but she has approached this as she does everything else, by giving it her all and making us proud. We really can’t wait to see what adventures this little lady has ahead of her.”
“My limb difference makes me unique. Why fit in when you can stand out!”
Daisy-May is a double amputee who came back fighting from a wheelchair to cartwheeling down the catwalk. She inspires many people around the world on her Instagram page doing gymnastics and circus training showing people what’s possible with hard work and a smile. She’s been modeling for just over a year with Zebedee Management, working for big high street stores and will be walking on New York Fashion Week in September.
“Oakley has amazed us since the day he was born. Watching him adapt so effortlessly to any task you’d think he might struggle with has been fascinating. He is a content, capable and confident boy who refuses to be held back in life. We are so excited for what his future will hold.”
“George lights up every room he walks into with his beaming smile and undeniable positivity and confidence, proving he is not defined by his disability. He often shows those who doubt his abilities that there is nothing he can’t do. He gets tired more quickly than other children, and sometimes has to find his own way of doing things, but that doesn’t stop him putting 100 percent effort into everything he does.
His prosthetist works hard to make sure George’s prosthetic legs can keep up with the expectations of a very active little boy. We are so grateful the NHS is able to meet the needs of children like George in England, making amputation a good option for children with congenital lower limb abnormalities.”
“April is Limb Difference Awareness Month and it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on my journey so far of being a Mummy to my amazing boy. Albie has symbrachydactyly, this is a non-genetic congenital abnormality and affects his right hand. We found out at my 20 week scan that Albie would be missing his right hand and I will never forget that horrible, sinking feeling I got when we were told. I got so caught up in all the worries about how he would function in life with not having a right hand. I panicked about how people would treat him because of his difference, it was really tough.
Fast forward to now with Albie being nearly 2 and I can strongly say that my fears, my worries and those tears were all for nothing! My boy is nothing short of incredible. He is thriving, he has met all his milestones and does everything all the other children can do. He’s so clever and innovative. He is the best big brother. Nothing stops him now and won’t in the future. Nobody really takes any notice of his hand. What they see first is that big smile.
Thank you for all you’ve taught me, my precious boy. You inspire me every day, make my heart overflow with love and remind me (and others) that being who you are and being proud of it is so important.We are all different and that is something to be celebrated!”
Photographer: Elise Dumontet @elisedumontetphotography @skinwereinproject
Make Up:Neusa Neves @neusa_nevesloves_mkup
Charlie Duffy @charlieduffymakeup
Hair:Andrew Gregory @tattoo_pole_boy
Video:Rob Eden @rob_eden_29
Women’s underwear: Figlaves @figleavesofficialDirector
Zoe Proctor @zebedee_management
Learn more at Zebedee Management.