By Josh Saunders
A Paralympian paralysed from shooting herself with a shotgun has achieved her dream of appearing in London Fashion Week after being told wheelchair users couldn’t model
Samanta Bullock, 39, from Mortlake, London, always longed to walk the catwalk for the infamous international event but was frequently rejected and told it was due to being ‘disabled’.
She was lucky to survive her accident at 14, when she accidentally shot herself with her father’s shotgun, severing her spinal cord as well as damaging her liver and pancreas.
For years she underwent rehabilitation and physiotherapy to regain the strength to perform basic activities like sitting up, moving from bed to chair and more.
She went onto become the best wheelchair tennis play in Brazil, competing internationally but had her modelling dreams cast aside after being rejected because she couldn’t ‘walk’.
Until last month, through Models of Diversity she paraded down the catwalk of London Fashion Week, finally fulfilling the goal she’s clung onto for over three decades.
Samanta, a model and Paralympian, said: “I was playing with my father’s gun and I shot myself by mistake, it was very sad what happened.
“The bullet hit my spine and severed my spinal cord as well as hitting the liver, pancreas and other areas, it was a miracle I survived.
“I was so panicked, thinking I was going to die at the time that when I was told that I would never walk again before my operation it didn’t matter.
“I didn’t mind being disabled but I cared about not being able to go down the catwalk anymore, London Fashion week was always a dream of mine and it felt shattered.
“I didn’t think I could model because I was in a wheelchair, it was a traumatic thing for me because I was a professional model before and then couldn’t do it.
“So I focused on wheelchair tennis and became the best player in Brazil, then I was asked to take pictures for a company selling tennis chairs.
“After that I started approaching companies asking if I could model for them and after asking a jeans company was rejected for being a wheelchair.
“Now I am 39-years-old and disabled, so I never thought I would be able to walk in fashion week due to both my age and being in a wheelchair but I made it happen.
“I definitely feel proud, it’s a lot of hard work but once you look back it’s all worth it.
“In London Fashion Week it was a different feeling, I’m always enthusiastic but I had this feeling of knowing I may never walk on that catwalk ever again.
“I wanted to remember every breath and second of my time on the catwalk, I took in all the feelings and sensations they were all special.
“Being part of LFW was truly a dream come true, over the past years I’ve been working hard in order to be recognized as a model of diversity and participate in such a great event like that.”
Samanta, originally from Capao da Canoa, Brazil, aspired to be a model from eight-years-old and had been working professionally prior to her accident.
While admiring and playing with her father’s shotgun, it accidentally fired paralysing her and nearly claiming her life.
She said: “I started modelling when I was eight, after my first fashion show I knew it was what I wanted to do and it became all I wanted from life.
“I was fascinated with guns ever since my dad fired a warning bullet to scare off a robber, I was so eager to see it.
“When I held the gun, I had a feeling of strength and power, I even remember looking down the barrel, what happened could have been much worse.
“I felt very naughty and happy with the gun, I picked it up and next thing I knew I was on the floor with a hole in my belly and unable to move my legs.
“It was a shotgun wound, surgeons had to remove the bullet from the spinal cord and repair the damage to my organs.”
Samanta spent seven months rebuilding strength in her body and after abandoning her modelling aspirations she returned to playing tennis.
She said: “I never pitied myself or felt bad about why I was in a wheelchair, I just focused on doing everything I could instead.
“I had a lot of time in rehabilitation, relearning everything from transferring between my wheelchair and other places to building the strength I needed for basic activities.
“You need to build a lot of upper body strength, when you start you are like a baby and have to relearn how to do a lot of things.
“I had to learn to adapt life around my disability, it took time to get used to and still to this day requires a lot of planning.”
Samanta believes the support of friends helped her gain confidence and shaped her into someone that would represent her home country internationally in wheelchair tennis.
Eventually this determination would also see her become an ambassador for Models of Diversity and appear on the catwalk during London Fashion Week last month.
Samanta said: “I have always been very strong in life, I was leader of handball and volleyball teams, and have always fought for what is right.
“When someone tells me that I can’t do something it makes me want to prove them wrong and makes me stronger, this especially was relevant for modelling.
“As the consumers of fashion we are diverse people, that’s what fascinated me about Models of Diversity, everyone is different, no two people are the same so why aren’t we all represented.
“It’s not to going to change overnight and will take a long time, we have had people in wheelchairs in New York Fashion Week, but we need to see a lot more, it needs to become a normal thing.
“I never thought I could walk a catwalk again and never imagined I’d fulfil my dream of arriving at London Fashion Week.”
Models of Diversity, are a charity who advocate and support the use of diversity throughout the fashion and beauty industry.
Angel Sinclair, founder of MOD, said: “Samanta represents MOD as she hasn’t let the fact that she is in a wheelchair stop her following her dreams.
MOD believes that models with disabilities should be doing runways and fashion campaigns alongside able bodied models without question.
“It made me feel happy that a Designer was willing to use a disabled model, in a wheelchair, in a show during LFW.
“Everyday I am contacted by people who themselves have disabilities and do not feel that fashion represents them in the models they use so for me it was fantastic to be able to show them that fashion is for them and that there are designers such as Louise Linderoth and Teatum Jones, who for the second year running used amputee models, that are willing to use models who don’t fit the stereotypical boxes that the industry has created.
“Samanta has a determination and drive that in the industry is needed, her disability is not going to stop her and because of this we have appointed her as an ambassador for our charity.
“She knows there are barriers in the way but she is going to break them down without hesitation.
“MOD are looking forward to the future and to bringing more opportunities for people to achieve their dreams .
“We look forward to the continued support from people who stand behind the work we do and to spreading the message that Fashion is for All.”
To find out about the charity visit: www.modelsofdiversity.org