VIDEO: It is time to stop aspiring to perfection | Kelly Knox | TEDxYouth@Glasgow * 2024
VIDEO: It is time to stop aspiring to perfection | Kelly Knox | TEDxYouth@Glasgow * 2024

Our bodies are so visible, yet so invisible on these platforms and the world

Let’s pretend these bodies, these humans, do not exist. Our bodies are deemed as offensive because they are not normal, are weird, strange, imperfect, do not conform to beauty ideals. Disabled people are one of the most marginalised groups in society, without the truest, equal representation- the barriers are harder to break, false stereotypes strengthened, further dehumanised.”

“Disabled people deserve to be SEEN in this world, for who we are, not what society perceives us to be. We are creatives, we are mothers, we are sexy, we are strong, we are bloody worthy.” Disability is still fighting its corner hard in the industry, + platforms like Instagram should be the one place where we can represent ourselves, how we want to be seen! To challenge all the outdated perceptions and stereotypes about what it means to be disabled.

I am unseen, invisible- which is ironic because physically disabled people are so visible, yet so swept under the rug. Instagram need to step up, stop hiding bodies like mine… says Kelly Knox.


Kelly Knox and early life

Kelly Knox (born 1984) is a British fashion model. She has been voted one of the most influential disabled people in the UK, and is one of the few fashion models in the world with a physical disability. Knox became one of the first models with a disability to star at London Fashion Week in 2017.

In 2008, she was the winner of the BBC Three Reality TV show, Britain’s Missing Top Model. One of eight disabled women contestants, among her competitors were two deaf women, a wheelchair user and a woman with one leg. As the winner of Britain’s Missing Top Model, she won a photoshoot with top fashion photographer, Rankin, and a feature in Marie Claire magazine.

Unlike Britain’s Next Top Model, a modelling contract was not part of the prize, but she was offered an introduction to Take 2 Models (London) who signed her after the show but shortly after went into administration. In September 2016, Knox was signed to a major agency – MiLK Management.

Campaign Work

In 2008, Knox launched a charity auction of celebrity shoes to raise money for landmine victims in aid of the Mines Advisory Group. She also worked with youth and education charity Raleigh. In 2013, Knox became an ambassador for Reach Charity, the association for children with upper limb deficiency. In 2013, Knox presented a short video for United Response creative disability project ‘Postcards from the Edges’, to encourage other people affected by disability to create a postcard of their own to express what is important to them.

As part of the London College of Fashion’s Better Lives Seminar on 10 March 2014, she spoke about “Ableism in Fashion”. On three occasions (2014, 2016 and 2017), Knox was voted one of the top 100 most influential people with a disability by the Shaw Trust and listed in the Power 100. In early 2016 she co-founded the Diversity Not Disability campaign to promote equal opportunities for models with disabilities. In 2016 Knox was shortlisted for Celebrity of The Year at The National Diversity Awards.

Knox was interviewed by Lou Stoppard at Nick Knight’s as part of their Prosthetics: Conversations, talking about the fashion industry’s treatment of diverse bodies and her decision not to wear a prosthetic arm. Knox is an ambassador (2016) for Parallel London and Disability Confident.

The inspiring mum who put disability on the catwalk: Kelly Knox was born without her left forearm and endured vile prejudice, but ditched her prosthetic arm and is now a London Fashion Week and Primark model who inspires thousands

Fashion has started to embrace diversity: plus-size models are in more and more major fashion campaigns; models of colour are frequently on the front cover of Vogue; women over 50 have been welcomed on to the catwalks from Paris to Milan; and transgender models are visible too. But disability — not a word Kelly likes — still has a long way to go. And Kelly is its formidable, not to mention stunning, ambassador in the fashion world. That she is missing her left forearm is — to Kelly — the least interesting thing about her life.

Kelly says: ‘Although I know some people will resist my presence and my beauty, it will never will stop me. I want disabled people to feel the power — to not feel ashamed or guilty about their incredible body. ‘I embody everything about the Teatum Jones woman: strong; confident and creative. Wearing their stunning white dress on the runway, I honestly felt like a real-life angel. The colour, design, tailoring, texture and material totally empowered me.’

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