Britain's Missing Top Model: Shining a spotlight on disability in the fashion industry
With a plethora of modelling reality shows out there, the BBC's Britain's Missing Top Model, which starts on Tuesday, provides a welcomed insight into the lives of eight disabled models. Set to a similar structure of Britain's Next Top Model, they compete to win a modelling contract and a photo-shoot in at top glossy, not Vogue but British Marie Claire. Contestants include a woman with one arm, another who is deaf, and a model who is wheel-chair bound due to a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder.
Just as the NY Mag points out, the series is an opportunity not only to witness the inequality models (both disabled and able-bodied) face on a daily basis, but it also paints a picture of how industry folks, such as editors, photographers, and agents, really feel about models with disabilities.
Take for instance, Marie Claire editor Marie O'Riordan, who also doubles as a judge on the show. She says: "When I first heard about the programme, my immediate thought was would it all be women in wheelchairs and I knew that if it was going to be some sort of freak show, I didn't want to be involved. But I very quickly realised there are many disabled people who are not in wheelchairs, and that is just one of the many preconceptions we all hold about disability."
Blindly ignorant, or refreshingly honest? I am inclined to think the latter. As the Daily Mail, highlights, 'whether the winner will go on to have a career when the cameras stop rolling remains to be seen'. That is true, but regardless of this fact, it is the recognition of the struggle alone, in an industry so rooted in the notion of appearance, that is the real winner.
- Britain's Missing Top Model, part of BBC 3's Beauty Season, starts on Tuesday, July 1 at 9pm.
[Image: Courtesy of BBC3]