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Modelling with Autism

  • Amy Bebbington

Many would think that the fashion world would not be well suited to those with autism. The crowded fashion shows, polite conversation and hectic speed is not the environment usually suited to those on the spectrum. However, models have spoken out about their experience. They share how they have not let their diagnosis stop them from achieving their dream; an inspiration to fellow individuals with autism.

They are speaking out to inspire autistic children who may feel the fashion industry is not possible. However, these models with autism are breaking boundaries showing how it really is an option.

RJ Peete’s Story

At age 3, R J Peete was diagnosed with autism; however, he has proved doctors wrong and has grown into a confident young man. A year or so ago, he was asked to appear in a magazine feature about living with autism shot by photographer Andrew Macpherson. The outcome was incredible with professional shots that could be easily mistaken for a top model with years of experience. Mcpherson was very impressed with RJ’s performance claiming that he was “incredibly self-aware” throughout the shoot. He is certainly an austistic male model in the making.

RJ is exceeding low expectations put upon him as a child by professionals and writes and performs his own rap songs; a talent that doctors thought he would never have with predictions that he would be nonverbal. RJ’s sends a message to all children who are on the autistic spectrum – “To all the kids with autism out there, you can do anything you want to.”

Nina Marker Tackles Meaningful Issues

Danish model, Nina Marker strives to use her position in the fashion industry to raise awareness. As a young teen, Nina experienced issues during her education and personal life. At 15 she was diagnosed after visiting a psychiatrist during a period of deep depression, which was a result of her high school not being equipped to handle her condition. Unfortunately, the education system was not able to support her with very few programs in place. By speaking out about her experience, she hopes to help those on the autism spectrum. She understands that they may be feeling similar to Nina. Creating awareness and an understanding in society will help children to be diagnosed mush earlier in life.

Her Successful Career

A year after her diagnosis, Nina was spotted at a McDonald’s chain. Before her big break, she was juggling her classes with modelling jobs including winning Copenhagen’s round of Elite Model Look back in 2014. However, when she was asked to walk in Anthony Vaccerello’s debut collection for Saint Laurent her profile was raised considerably. She has built a career that puts her in the world top runway model bracket walking for the likes of Versace, Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi and Max Mara.

Her journey has been far from easy but Nina wishes to spread awareness. To show that the fashion industry is a place where autistic models can thrive. During her childhood, she dreamed of being on the runway and starring in editorial campaigns. She has not let her diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome stop her. Reaching out to her 23.8K Instagram followers she wore a tee that read – Bee Kind, I Have Autism. She has begun a conversation that needed to be addressed in the industry.

Nina states: “It’s possible for us to be successful and have a good time. Stay safe and protect your mind.”

Heather Kuzmich Competed in America’s Next Top Model

Back in 2007, Heather Kuzmich took part in the modelling competition America’s Next Top Model. She did not let her diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome stop her from competing. Even though she could struggle with social interaction and making eye contact; two factors that are a big part of the show. It was extremely brave and courageous with autism being less on people’s radars over ten years ago. Heather allowed for her struggles to be aired on live TV open the conversation to a wider audience.

Despite her difficulties to hold eye contact and the jibes from fellow contestants, Heather has a raw connection with the camera; a quality that models really need to succeed in the fashion world. She was also voted the viewers favourite eight consecutive times. She became one of the most popular contestants during the four year run. Heather made it to the top five out of thirteen not letting her diagnosis define her. She is another courageous individual who wanted to use the fashion platform as a way to create a better understanding of autism.

Modelling with Autism

Every situation is different and it is up to you as a parent or adult to decide if you or your child would be suited to the industry. These three amazing role models show that with determination and courage autistic fashion models are a possibility. By no means is it easy yet it is inspiring to witness that autism is being addressed in the fashion and beauty landscape. It is time for more people to be aware of autism and the difficulties they face in everyday life. With the fashion world reaching an international audience models like Nina Parker can make such a difference to a young persons life.

Of course, every individual is unique with many falling at different levels on the spectrum. Therefore, it is up to each person whether they can cope with the crowds, social interaction and performing in front of a camera. Some will find this more difficult than others yet those who can cope with the situations should be able to have the opportunity to try. With autistic models speaking out and being so open more on the spectrum will feel inspired to achieve their dreams too. Even if it is within another creative industry, everyone should be encouraged to fulfill his or her dreams. Photographers, designers and agents need to have the skills to be patience with all types of characters and accommodate their needs to build a diverse industry.

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Posted by Amy Bebbington

I express my love of fashion through writing, blogging and styling. My creative personality ensures that I produce unique and original work. I am a keen knitter and enthusiatic dancer.