When Rebekah Marine’s confidence down the catwalk won over the fashion industry, she not only fulfilled a lifelong dream but also proved that a disability didn’t have to hold anyone back from making a fashion statement.
Story by Min A. Lee
When Rebekah Marine walked the runway for designer Antonio Urzi during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week last year, the audience was agog. Sure, the silver body paint and futuristic dress were spectacular, but what really made heads turn was the myoelectric prosthesis that Marine wore in place of her right arm and hand, something she calls an “accessory.” Born with Symbrachydactyly, a congenital limb anomaly, which, in her case, meant an unformed hand and partial arm, Marine had faced numerous rejections during her early modeling years. But that day, she made headlines, becoming a face of diversity in an otherwise rigid runway world.
The self-proclaimed “Bionic Model” says she feels grateful to be at the forefront of such a massive shift in perception. “It’s interesting, yet humbling, to see the constant headlines of disabled models making a push in the fashion industry,” says Marine. “I never saw anything like this growing up; there just weren’t models like me. I hope in the next five to 10 years, disabled models won’t just be a headline but a new standard. It’s important to educate people about disabilities, and the fashion industry is the perfect medium. It’s such a huge platform to reach people.”
As an advocate for organizations like Runway of Dreams, which works with designers and brands to make mainstream fashion adaptable for the “differently-abled community,” Marine knows there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome. “Keeping awareness alive remains in the hands of the public,” she says. “Our social media-driven society has more power than we ever could’ve imagined, and if we keep demanding change, we’ll see change. The public has wanted to see ‘real people’ in fashion for a long time. We’ve been saturated with unattainable beauty standards for so long that it’s become uninteresting to people.”
Though wracked with insecurities in the past, Marine has learned to embrace her life, working to push against expectations and open up doors that once remained sealed shut. Since her fashion week debut, she’s walked the spring 2016 show for FTL Moda, modeled for Nordstrom’s anniversary catalog, and appeared in various magazines like “US Weekly,” “Teen Vogue” and “Time.” She also blogs about her modeling work to inspire others.
Marine recalls the emotions that swept through her, as she was about to take that first step, literally, that would propel her into the media spotlight. “I remember how nervous I was waiting for my turn to walk: palms were sweaty, knees were shaking, my heart pounding out of my chest,” she says. “As soon as I stepped out there, I thought, ‘You got this.’ This overwhelming feeling of confidence consumed me. I knew at that moment, I was changing the face of the fashion industry forever, and that was a big deal.”
See more of Rebekah at thebionicmodel.com.