9 Women Who Boldly Stepped Onto the Runway and Broke Decades-Long Stereotypes
With each passing year, the fashion industry evolves and pays more attention to diverse individuals. Initially, plus-size models began participating in shows, and now the path to the modeling world is open for everyone, whether it’s a girl with Down syndrome or a woman in a wheelchair.
In 2008, Katie was attacked with sulfuric acid. She gave up her right to anonymity in order to increase awareness about burn victims. She is a model, TV presenter, writer, and blogger.
Mara Martin captured the attention of the world when she made a powerful statement during a Sports Illustrated fashion show. Striding down the runway, she confidently breastfed her baby daughter, making headlines and sparking conversations about motherhood and empowerment. “I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!” the model later said about the event.
A 69-year-old college professor unintentionally became an “accidental icon” when she decided to passionately pursue her interest in fashion by starting her own blog. To her surprise, some photographers mistook her for a participant in New York Fashion Week, causing her to swiftly rise to fame. Despite her age, Slater defied expectations—signing with Elite models, gracing the covers of renowned magazines, and strutting down runways, all while in her sixties.
“I am just an ordinary person who reinvented myself at age 61,” she humbly describes herself, embodying the power of personal transformation and fearless determination.
24-year-old Kate Grant became the first model with Down syndrome to sign with a modeling agency in Northern Ireland last year. Grant’s successful career in the industry began when she won a pageant at 19. Since then, she has walked at London Fashion Week and become an activist for a more inclusive fashion world. “I use my platform to raise awareness for the inclusion of people with a disability or ability. I use my voice for people who can’t have a voice.”
Marsha Elle is a singer, songwriter, bionic model, and motivational speaker who has inspired many through her journey as an amputee. She was born with a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency, which resulted in her becoming an amputee at a young age. Despite this, Marsha Elle has used her platform to promote disability inclusion and body positivity. She has released music that delivers messages of hope and empowerment.
Diandra Forrest is an African-American model with albinism who is breaking barriers and expanding the definition of beauty. She has become a game-changer in the fashion industry and has left an indelible mark on the industry. Diandra has opened up about her albinism and her natural hair journey, and she is comfortable in her own skin. She has also become the first model with albinism to land her own major beauty campaign.
Diandra has struggled with finding the right foundation for her skin tone, but she has used her platform to encourage others to see beauty beyond appearance.
Lauren Wasser was 24 years old when both of her legs were affected by toxic shock syndrome and had to be amputated. Wasser grew up with 2 model parents, and up until her illness, she had also been following in their footsteps. After a period of depression and trying to come to terms with her new body, the model decided that she’d continue her career and try to make it more inclusive. Since then, Wasser has walked countless catwalks with her golden prosthetic legs.
Jillian Mercado, despite her muscular dystrophy condition and use of a wheelchair, has fearlessly pursued her career aspirations and championed representation in the fashion industry. Through her impactful presence on the covers of various fashion magazines and her dedicated advocacy on social media, Mercado has actively spread awareness about disabilities. Furthermore, she achieved a monumental milestone by making her runway debut at New York Fashion Week, breaking barriers and inspiring others along her extraordinary journey.
17-year-old Tilly lost her hands due to meningitis back in childhood; since then, the girl has become an advocate for diversity. During a fashion show in London, she took off her prosthetics right on the runway, prompting enthusiastic applause.
We appreciate the changing attitudes towards female beauty, as rigid standards become a thing of the past. Just take a look at this 74-year-old beauty who confidently shares photos in a swimsuit.