Kelly Knox started modelling in 2008, way back when there were no models who looked like her. Cracking the fashion industry wasn’t going to be easy, but being the determined, resilient, strong, passionate person that she was, she was fully up for the challenge.
It wasn’t about “just being a model” for me, I wanted to change the way society perceives disability and challenge the beauty ideal. I wanted to put disability on the map – make it look cool and fashionable.
Before I started modelling, I never even realised I was disabled. Which may sound crazy to some, but as I was born with one hand, it was just natural to me. Suddenly I was labelled, judged, stereotyped and put into a box – which though difficult for me to get my head around at first it opened up a whole new world of fashion and disability.
I felt very invisible, underrepresented and frustrated. I researched the treatment of disabled people through the ages and cried at the things I read. Horrendous things still happen in certain parts of the world to disabled children and adults. This infused so much emotion and passion inside of me to change the way society views disability.
The past 10 years have been hard. There were times when I wanted to give up, but there was something inside of my soul telling me not to, no matter how low and disempowered I felt, how tough it was and that my time was coming. I always knew my power, beauty, light, wisdom, strength and uniqueness came from within. My body did not define me or determine my worth.
Some people may say as a model you’re there to be judged. That’s fine. Judge me; I’ll prove them wrong!
Diversity is the present, diversity is the future and we all deserve representation. Disability is the last barrier to break in the fashion industry. Kelly Knox
Sareta: There has been a shift in the fashion industry during the last few years. We’re seeing campaigns with the inclusion of plus-sized models and models with disabilities. Are people aware of the increasing amount of diversity? Are things changing?
Kelly: It has definitely changed since I started modelling, but there’s still a long way to go. It is time to stop aspiring to perfection and celebrate beauty in all its diversity. Beauty should never be defined by shape, size, colour, ability, gender choice, age or anything else. We’re at a time now where people are bored of seeing the same, tired images. People want to feel empowered, uplifted, inspired and are excited about a difference. With social media and the way the world is now, society can’t brush disabled people (and other minority groups / marginalised bodies) under the carpet, pretending we don’t exist. It is time for us all to step in our power and say “this is who I am.”
Sareta: Talk us through a typical booking, How does the process work?
Kelly: Everything goes through my amazing agent Liberty, and we go from there. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have such a wonderful, supportive, hard-working agent who believes in me and all that I do.
Sareta: Is it challenging being both a mother and a model, how do you juggle the two?
Kelly: Being a mum is challenging enough. Jenson drives me round the absolute twist sometimes, quite often I’ve felt like I’ve lost the plot. Luckily I have a very supportive partner and mum who both do what they can to help out when I’m working.
Sareta: Your book (portfolio to us mere mortals) is fantastic; your images are just breathtaking. You’ve worked with so many talented creatives, what’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Kelly: Thank you so much. Being signed by MiLK is 100% my career highlight. I have done some incredible things, and this is only the beginning. I am doing a TEDx Talk in Glasgow at the end of May – which is major!
Sareta: Have you always wanted to be in this industry?
Kelly: Not at all! I only began modelling for a laugh. When I was little, I wanted to be a witch.
Sareta: I love a bit of America’s Next Top Model, the shoots are usually full on, and models are required to work that camera from all angles, no matter what. Have you been in situations where the team were overwhelmingly authoritative when it came to your output, or do shows like this ham it up for ratings?
Kelly: I feel all the creatives are under pressure when on a shoot. From the photographer, makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, and model. The end result is all about showcasing our art; we all want that money shot! I recently did Bristol Fashion Week, where we worked 12 hour days, and the shows were back to back. I enjoy working like this because it is full of energy, collaboration, some nice pressure, and excitement.
Sareta: Do you see yourself modelling in ten years, or do you have a master plan that involves taking over the world?
Kelly: I know I did not incarnate as a human being on Earth at this time in history to be basic or average. My Earth mission is to share and offer my power in love and service. I want to make such a big difference in this world, to society. Nothing is impossible.
The sky is not the limit when there’s a whole universe beyond. Dreams do come true, and the secret to success is never to give up. World domination is definitely on the agenda.
Sareta Fontaine is the founder of Kiki Blah-Blah; a modern lifestyle blog aimed initially at mum’s but has since grown. Since 2016, Sareta has worked on the platform, both designing and creating a space for other bloggers to share their thoughts and feelings, while also sharing hers.