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Meet the model creating opportunities for disabled people

Samanta Bullock is a wheelchair model and tennis player, she lives in Mortlake in London. Here Simi Hindwani writes about Samanta's career.

Wheelchair model Samanta Bullock needs help to enter the café, which is understandable given her physical limitations.

“Sometimes I struggle when public spaces are not accessible,” she says.

A life-changing accident

Born and brought up in the southern part of Brazil, Osorio, Samanta is a wheelchair model, blogger, tennis player and a businesswoman.

Aged 40 but living the life of a 20-year-old, she talks about how she arrived at this point.

As a kid, she was very active. When she was eight, she started playing tennis while being a model.

This changed when she suffered an accident when she was 14.

“I was playing with my dad’s gun and I shot myself by mistake and became paraplegic,” she says. “I could not move my legs and I was in pain.”

The journey to recovery

She describes her recovery as a tough process with difficulties and disappointments.

“I thought my life was coming to an end and that things were not working out for me,” she says.

Then one day she discovered wheelchair tennis. With it came a community of people that were facing similar struggles and could relate to each other’s problems.

Read more: Paralympian Lauren Steadman on being an athlete

After years of no physical movement, getting back into sport was complicated, as it was like starting from scratch.

But her tremendous talent elevated her to the point of travelling the globe representing Brazil in three Tennis World Cups.

She also participated in the Parapan American Games of 2007, securing a silver medal.

“I used to think people were against me. I finally felt I belonged somewhere,” she says proudly.

Becoming a wheelchair model

As the number one tennis player in Brazil, Samanta’s sponsors offered her to be the face of sports-related products.

She began to understand that she still had a chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a model.

It has been 13 years since she first started modelling in a wheelchair.

“I feel that the fashion industry has opened up new opportunities for disabled people,” she says.

“However, it still needs to improve.”

Achieving progress

To achieve progress as well as to do what she loves, she is now opening her own clothes shop.

Her plan is to work together with some fashion designers to come up with clothing items that are suitable for disabled people.

“My aim is to create a collection that makes them feel comfortable and fashionable at the same time,” she says.

This would be convenient for someone who usually is in a seated position for a long time.

Her business will also offer a variety of different products such as accessories and cosmetics with the main purpose of improving the quality of life in a functional and inclusive way.

Samanta Bullock, wheelchair model
Samanta Bullock is a wheelchair model hoping to pave the way for others

Facing difficulties

Apart from clothing issues, Samanta says she still faces a number of difficulties.

“The other day I got rejected in a coach and I had to take a taxi,” she says. “We often don’t have the services we need, such as ramps or toilets. Inclusion is important.”

She tries to raise awareness by giving talks all around the world about the importance of acceptance and open-mindedness within the sport and fashion industries, as well as by using social media.

“If people do not see us around, they will not be bothered,” she says. “For that we need to be in the picture and make a change.”

Samanta’s perseverance can teach everyone a lesson.

She is also a living proof of how a disability can’t limit your desire of becoming something in life.

“To all the girls out there, just follow your dreams,” she says. “No matter how tough it gets, just think if I can, you can.”

To visit Samanta’s shop click here.

 

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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