‘I didn’t see myself as having a disability until I stated modelling,’ says Kelly Knox. ‘My barrier as a model isn’t that I have one hand, it’s the attitude and ignorance of people in the fashion industry.’
Knox, 28, from Enfield, north London, was born without a left hand. ‘The hospital never said why,’ she says. ‘They just told my mum that it’s more common in girls and it’s more common on the left side.’
Knox’s modelling career began when she won TV show Britain’s Missing Top Model in 2008. Her prize comprised a fashion shoot in Marie Claire and she was shot by world-famous photographer Rankin.
Knox has appeared on Gok Wan’s How To Look Good Naked, opened Pakistan Fashion Week, appeared on billboards in Oslo, starred as a zombie in a Samsung internet advert and, most recently, walked the catwalk for the P&G Beauty Trends 2013 fashion show in January this year.
She’s also appearing in a Channel 4 show due to air in October but she’s sworn to secrecy about that.
‘I never wanted to be a model,’ she says. ‘I only entered Britain’s Missing Top Model to inspire people who had disabilities. But I realised I was good at modelling and I really enjoyed it. So I thought I could get out there and challenge people’s perceptions of what it meant to be beautiful.’
Knox says walking the P&G catwalk has been the highlight of her career so far. ‘If a brand as big as that can embrace someone like me as a model, then why can’t other brands?’ she asks.
It’s a good question. And something the Models Of Diversity organisation is campaigning for. It wants to break the fashion industry’s obsession with size-zero culture and promote models of all colour, age and abilities.
In Britain, more than 11million people live with a disability. But in the past six years, there has been only one physically disabled model in a high-fashion campaign, by Alexander McQueen in 1999.