A disabled model who has appeared in top fashion magazines and on catwalks around the world in this year alone is taking the fashion world by storm.
Kelly Knox, 29, from north London, was born without her left forearm and while she may be landing some of the top jobs in the industry, she’s determined to make widespread changes in fashion.
Five years ago the stunning blonde won a modelling TV competition which propelled her into the limelight, but things did not work out as she hoped
Kelly came first in the BBC programme Britain’s Missing Top Model and won a photoshoot with Rankin, a feature in Marie Claire and an introduction to Take 2 Models. They signed her but shortly after the show they went into administration.
‘I feel I wasn’t treated well at all – I was left in the gutter,’ she tells MailOnline.
However this blip in her journey didn’t deter her, and this year is her most commercially fruitful since she started modelling.
‘P&G made a video of me with my modelling images and text – part of the text read: “The most beautiful woman after Venus”.
‘I felt so emotional on the catwalk – I couldn’t believe P&G Beauty were saying all these amazing things about me. My eyes actually welled up as I was walking down the huge rotating runway.
‘I really hope to get invited back next year to be part of the event, which is all about creating the future of beauty and new pathways.
‘Modelling for P&G Beauty is my proudest modelling career moment. I was so honoured to be recognised and embraced as a model by a global leading company. Surely this is a message to all brands, fashion magazines and advertisers,’ she says.
While in Beijing, Kelly was booked for an editorial shoot for Marie Claire China’s April 2013 issue.
‘It was a four page editorial and interview. I wore Chanel, including a Karl Lagerfeld dress from the SS13 couture collection,’ she says.
In August, she showed off her funny side in celebrity hidden camera comedy show I’m Spazticus for Channel 4. She fronted a hilarious spoof campaign against Limbs Made From Animal Origin.
‘I’d love to do more TV work,’ she says.
‘I had such a brilliant time filming I’m Spazticus.’
Caryn Franklin of All Walks Catwalk and Debenhams later selected her to model in the High Street giant’s latest lookbook, another highlight.
She may be ecstatic at her year’s successes, but Kelly’s well aware that there’s still barriers to break.
‘There is still a long way to go and there’s so much more I should be – and want to be – doing,’ she says.
‘Disability is almost invisible in the fashion and beauty industries – it’s very frustrating, but I believe in me and the message behind my work and I’m determined to make changes in the industry.
‘I made a postcard outlining my frustration for United Responses Postcards From The Edges campaign, I’m speaking at United Responses Carol Service on December 4, I work for Shape Arts, a disability led arts organisation as a programme coordinator and I’m an ambassador for REACH.
Charity work is important to me.’
She recently worked with make up brand Illamasqua in a Beauty School Drop In session for the teenage girl members of REACH (Association for Children with Upper Limb Deficiency).
‘In my eyes, my role as an ambassador is to spread positivity, increase self esteem and confidence, encourage the young reach members to follow their dreams, to know that they are beautiful and difference is something to be proud of.
‘We need positive disabled role models. Disability has been accepted in sport and TV but fashion has a long way to go,’ she says.
‘Models of Diversity have always supported me as a model. They champion for all diversity but are focusing on disability as it’s so under-represented in fashion and advertising,’ she says.
Kelly is hungry for her next modelling job and hopes to front a campaign for a P&G Beauty Brand one day. Her dream is to shoot editorial for Vogue Italia and more top British fashion magazines.
‘I’d love to star in an ASOS or Benetton Campaign, brands whose power I believe in, who already value the importance of diversity. I want to help to change stereotypes surrounding disability and beauty.
‘Beauty is diverse and individuality should be celebrated and embraced.’
‘It’s a good feeling when a child born like me sees me as their role model and looks up to me. If they can see me successful and achieving – then it gives the parents and young people hope too.
‘I get inundated with emails from young teenagers born with a hand missing saying how inspired they are by my images. They say I give them strength, confidence, boost their self esteem and encourage them to follow their dreams. I’m also asked for advice a lot, which I always take time out to give.
‘This is what drives me in my work.’