Rebekah Marine isn’t entirely bionic, but she still calls herself The Bionic Model. And at this year’s New York Fashion Week, she sparked a serious conversation about “disabled” models when walking at the FTL Moda runway show.
“Growing up, I was just such a ham for the camera,” Marine told TIME. “Modeling was a natural choice for me.”
Born without a right forearm, the 28-year-old wasn’t a natural choice for fashion labels that were hesitant to hire her. But four years ago, she became an ambassador for Touch Bionics and was given the i-limb quantum, an advanced prosthetic arm that moves according to her muscle movements, just as a hand would. She decided not to look at her missing arm as a disability but to embrace it. Her first big break came with Nordstrom in 2015 when she modeled for the store’s anniversary catalog. Her career hasn’t slowed down since.
Marine is also an ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and supports children born without a limb. As an ambassador, Marine travels around the country giving motivational speeches to children with limb differences. She decided that missing an arm wasn’t a crutch, but a beautiful way to help other people with disabilities embrace their beauty and embrace their aspirations.
Marine walked the runway this past Sunday with confidence in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station along with other disabled models with prosthetics as well as Madeline Stuart, who made headlines as the first model with down syndrome to walk in NYFW. The show was produced by Ilaria Niccolini Production. This season, Marine walked for the labels Anna’s Loud and Archana Kochhar.
“I think it’s so cool to be at the front of the line of this change, and being able to open the door and inspire others to open their minds to different models,” Marine said.