What It's Like to Be a Model With a Disability

About the Author: Vita Bernik is a model, blogger, and disability advocate. She has been featured in iD-Italy, Cosmopolitan Slovenia, and most recently Vogue! To check out more of her stunning modeling images and some thoughts from her make sure to go visit her instagram here!

Hey! My name is Vita and I’m a 22 years old student of Criminal Justice and Security from Slovenia. I was diagnosed with SMA type 2 when I was 2, but was undiagnosed when I was 21. I’ve been undiagnosed ever since.

When I was younger I never imagined I’d have any part in the fashion industry. The models were always tall, skinny, good looking, etc. I’ve never seen anyone with a disability being a model until that slowly started to change. However, I’ve never considered myself good enough to be a model.

One day, when I was looking for an assistant, I received a completely different message - from a professional photographer Matija Tomc (@tomcmatija), asking me if I’d like to do a photoshoot with him. It was surreal and I was immediately up for it. That’s how my door to the fashion industry opened - when I expected it the least. I was so nervous the first time because I had no idea about how I am going to pose, some my body movement is very limited. However, when the photoshoot started, I immediately felt like a real model. The finished project ended up in iD-Italy (@id_italy), which was huge since it was my first ever try. Later on, I got signed with a modelling agency ZTMODELS (@ztmodels), which was just about a year ago.

From then on and until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t have any opportunities to work as a model for any campaigns, projects, etc. Clients are still looking for standard models, which means they have to have specific body measurements, which I and many more disabled models for sure don’t have. It’s hard to get job opportunities in this area if you’re a standard model, let alone a disabled one. Client often say that having a disabled model would be interesting, but are rarely actually up for it and that’s why I have to do a lot of work myself as well (contacting photographers, etc.).

I’ve been luck to always have an amazing team on the photoshoot because they need to adjust to my needs as well. For example, I can’t be without my mask for a long time, so the MUA has to do my makeup with a mask on, the hairstylist has to go around my mask straps and things like that. As long as the team is pleasant, everything can be arranged.

These past few years there have been more and more disabled models in the fashion industry. A lot of agencies are now specifically working with disabled models, which is a great change. However, I still think that many popular, worldwide known brands haven’t decided to be inclusive (yet). Difference is interesting and we should be more represented in all areas. We deserve a chance just as everyone else.

If you want to be a model, but are scared because you’re disabled - don’t be. Shoot your shot!