Britains Missing Top Model with a Disability

Author: Ian C. Langtree
Published: 2008/07/22 - Updated: 2010/07/13
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Eight gorgeous girls with a disability have been selected to take part in the BBC3 series entitled Britains Missing Top Model.

Main Digest

Eight gorgeous girls have been selected to take part in the BBC3 series entitled "Britain's Missing Top Model"

What makes this series different is that each of girls has a disability - for some it is clearly visible such as an arm or leg amputation or partial paralysis requiring a wheelchair. For others, their disability is less visible but just as challenging, such as deafness, partial blindness or mobility impairments.

The girls are mentored by modeling guru and agent Jonathan Phang (instrumental in launching the careers of Naomi Campbell, Jodie Kidd, Nikki Taylor and Jerry Hall). And each week their photo shoots are judged by a panel of industry experts - Wayne Hemingway (co-founder
of fashion label Red or Dead and Hemingway Design, awarded the MBE for services to the fashion industry), Marie O'Riordan (Editor of Marie Claire), Lara Masters (disabled model, TV presenter, writer and actor) and Mark Summers (Casting Director).

Marie Claire magazine is involved with this series due to Marie O'Riordan participating as a judge on the panel and part of the prize for the winning girl will be a photo shoot in the magazine.

The series is six episodes long and started on the 1st of July, so we are now currently in week three and half way through the series.

Four of the girls have been eliminated so far, one in the first episode, two in the second and another in the third. Each episode gets the girls to take part in a different aspect of modeling.

What happened in Episode 1:

At the end of the first episode Rebecca Le'Gon became the first contestant to be eliminated from Britain's Missing Top Model. Following a heated debate amongst the judges, the 27 year old was booted off the debut show. Speaking after her elimination, Rebecca admitted that she
was disappointed to be leaving so early. 'I'll miss the glamor and the fun of it all, and I quite liked all the being treated like you were a celebrity - you know, all the makeovers,' she said.

What happened in Episode 2:

The judges revealed that this episode was going to finish with a double elimination with not one but two of the girls having to leave the show. The task this week for the seven remaining girls was to take part in a 1950's style lingerie shoot. At the end of the program, following a
heated debate by the judges, both Lilli and Debbie were voted off the program. Lilli, a TV interpreter who was born profoundly deaf, was accused by judge Lara Masters as holding a stiff pose, while other panel judge Mark Summers, caused controversy by suggesting Lilli was 'carrying a few extra pounds'.

Meanwhile Debbie, who lost her right arm in a bus accident, was the more visibly upset of the two: 'I'm just really disappointed that I couldn't show you what I really can do. But I know for sure there will be an opportunity for me'.

What happened in Episode 3:

In this episode the five remaining girls faced their biggest challenge yet, performing on a catwalk in front of an audience. They had just 48 hours to prepare for their performance and to fight to stay in the competition. After the girls had all been pushed to their emotional limits they had to face up to the judges at the end of the show. The meeting proved to be the most heated yet when judge Wayne Hemingway took issue with the strong criticisms judge Mark Summers laid on contestant Jenny Johnson. However the judges reached the decision that it was indeed Jenny who should leave the program. Judge Marie O'Riordan summed up the feelings of the panel when she said there were concerns about her personality and how well she could get on with groups of people.

What happened in Episode 4:

So far during the competition, the girls have been working individually on their challenges and photo shoots. This week they are introduced to four professional male models so the judges can find out if they have the ability to work with another model. It starts with an intimacy exercise on their first day and then, having got to know their counterparts, the next day brings a casting for a TV advertisement selling a fictional ice cream called Phang's, named after their mentor. This involves speaking on camera - which proves difficult for deaf contestant Kellie Moody. In the end she is allowed to do two takes - one speaking and one using sign language. The final test of working with the male models is a photo shoot in which they are tasked with creating "sensitive, intimate chemistry". At the end of the show it comes down to Kellie and Jessica facing elimination based on their work this week. It's a very close decision, but Kellie is the unlucky loser.

What happened in Episode 5:

In the final of the competition two of the girls would be eliminated leaving the last girl remaining as the winner. The episode started with Jessica, Kelly and Sophie setting out at 7.45am in the morning, and heading for a tough housing estate in east London. The photographer for this shoot was Amelia Troubridge. This was a tough shoot for the girls in an urban environment that had no disabled access and was carried out during adverse weather conditions. The resulting pictures from the shoot bring disappointment and outrage form some of the judges due to the way they have been shot. Amelia consciously chose to omit the contestants' disabilities from the shots and as Judge Lara Masters sums up; "It's just so upsetting that she's got three disabled models, and she's taken three pictures of three able-bodied girls". However the judges decided they can still assess the pictures they have. During the discussion Jessica's attitude to her chronic fatigue and her need to again sleep on the set comes into question. It is this that ultimately swings the votes for elimination her way and she becomes the sixth girl to leave the program.

The next day of the competition brings what the girls mentor, Jonathan Phang, calls "probably the most difficult assignment that a model will ever have". The two girls take part in a nude photo shoot led by photographer Oliver Pearce, who has a total of seventeen years experience. Sophie goes first and she has come armed with sketches detailing how she thinks she could pose with - rather than actually in - her wheelchair. This includes the final photograph - chosen by herself in collaboration with Oliver - in which she is sat on the floor, looking towards her wheelchair, with her right leg raised on the wheel that's facing the camera. Kelly goes second but takes a different approach to Sophie. She is less collaborative and prefers to let Oliver direct her rather than adding more of her own input. However Kelly is delighted with how the shoot went and said that she fully enjoyed herself. At the end, when both girls are facing the judges, they were questioned about their attitudes to disability and beauty and their final pictures are reviewed. New judge Melissa Richardson from Take 2 Model Management, who is here for the final crucial decision, and judge Mark Summers side with Kelly while judges Lara Master and Wayne Hemmingway favoring Sophie. In the end it is left to Marie Claire Editor and Judge Marie O'Riordan to cast the final vote and it is she who announces to the girls that; "The winner is Kelly". Marie felt that Kelly had the edge photographically and that on a purely model-contestant basis, she should win.

What happened in Episode 6:

It's a week since her victory and while she has been relaxing at home Kelly is soon plunged back into the modeling world for her photo shoot with renowned photographer Ian Rankin which will then appear in fashion magazine Marie Claire. According to her mentor, Jonathan Phang, a photo shoot with Rankin is "about the best start a model could get", and getting this particular photographer's valuable approval could make her career. Kelly and Rankin seem to form a good understanding during the shoot and, at the end of the session, Rankin is clearly impressed with Kelly's skills in front of the camera.

After the shoot Kelly has one final challenge to face - she needs to convince elite model agency Take 2 to represent her. She is understandably nervous, especially after already being told by Melissa Richardson from Take 2 that "in the real world, you're hips are too big and you're not tall enough". Melissa tells her that she will be treated like any other girl who has walked off the street and that each member of the booking team must agree to take her on if she is to succeed. The team waste no time in discussing Kelly including her, "immediate cons - that she is twenty-three and five foot eight", stating that it this an unusually late age for a model to start her career, and that it would be preferable if Kelly was two inches taller. There is also a lot of debate about her disability. Finally the team reappear to give Kelly their decision - Take 2 Model Management have unanimously decided that they would like to represent her.

The models included:

Jessica Kellgren-Hayes

Age: 19
From: Bristol
Height: 5'9''
Occupation: Student
Disability: HNPP and ME

Jessica is the youngest contestant on the show. She lives with her mum, dad and younger brother in their house in Bristol. Two years ago, Jess lost all sensation and movement in her arms and discovered that she has a hereditary disorder which makes you extremely susceptible to injuries. Her neurological condition means she walks with a cane and occasionally uses a wheelchair.

Jessica attends colleges three times a week to study for a BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design. After college she plans to study Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Her lifelong dream is to be a presenter for Blue Peter.

Debbie van der Putten

Age: 22
From: Netherlands
Height: 5'4''
Occupation: Researcher
Disability: Arm amputee

Debbie lives with her mother, father and sister in the city of Helmond in the Netherlands. Debbie lost her right arm at the age of 19 when she was on a bus journey while on holiday in Spain. The bus driver, who was driving Debbie and some of her friends, fell asleep at the wheel which resulted in the horrific crash which also resulted in several deaths.

She still enjoys doing the same things whether it's shopping or going to the movies. She now travels the world researching holidays for the disabled and she has modeled in many disability campaigns as well as for Playboy magazine.

Jenny Johnson

Age: 22
From: Seattle, USA
Height: 5'10''
Occupation: Student
Disability: Partial Paralysis

American student Jenny lives in Seattle, Washington with her mum, her dad and three younger siblings. At sixteen years old, on the way back from a basketball game, she was in a serious car accident which left her in a coma for 19 days. She is now paralyzed on her right side. With severe fractures and a traumatic brain injury, doctors told Jenny that her injuries would probably leave her 'like a vegetable'.

After five years of therapy, daily walking for miles to build muscle strength and massive determination, Jenny is currently studying Speech Therapy at the University of Washington and working part-time at a clothing shop. She has also done some local modeling in Seattle.

Kellie Moody

Age: 24
From: Leicester
Height: 5'7''
Occupation: Make-up artist
Disability: Deaf

As a nine-week old baby, a loud bang could not wake Kellie from her sleep. It was then that her mum knew Kellie was deaf. Being deaf was especially rough at school, where the other children bullied her for it. Luckily, she had a supportive and loving family behind her. Kellie's life turned around in college, when her tutor said, 'you can do this'. After a lifetime of being told about everything she couldn't do, those were the words Kellie needed to hear.

Kellie works as a part-time make-up artist and does freelance work for weddings, television and fashion, where clients ask for her by name. She can feel music vibrations and she loves to go clubbing with her friends. She also loves being curvaceous and doesn't believe all models should be super thin. Kellie won Miss Deaf UK in 2007 and represented the UK at Miss Deaf World in Prague.

Sophie Morgan

Age: 23
From: Sussex
Height: 5'9''
Occupation: Art student
Disability: Paraplegic

Sophie lived with her parents and brother in Sussex until recently, but a craving for more independence led her to move into her own flat in the heart of London's Covent Garden. When she was eighteen years old, Sophie was in a car accident the day after receiving her A-level results. She broke her back, which means that she's paralyzed from the chest down and will always use a wheelchair.

Sophie completed an art foundation course at the University of Brighton, and is now continuing her studies at Goldsmiths College in London. She loves traveling (less than a year after her accident, she trekked across Nicaragua) and she is no stranger to the modeling world as she has posed for various art projects. She believes that part of being a good model is having a good personality, and her fun-loving personality certainly shines through the camera lens.

Rebecca Le'gon

Age: 27
From: Colchester
Height: 5'5''
Occupation: Administrator
Disability: Leg amputee

Becca was born with a hip that did not grow and a left leg that only grew from the knee down - so effectively she had one leg much shorter than the other. She was fitted with a prosthetic leg at 18 months and now walks with a cane. After doctor's recommended her to exercise more to build up her strength, Rebecca works out every morning for at least an hour.

Rebecca loves traveling, and spent nine months in Australia with three friends. During the trip, she lost her prosthetic leg and the local news media in Perth had to help her find it. At the weekend though, Becca can be found down the pub - her boyfriend's parents' pub that is - having a drink or two and a chat with mates.

Lilli Risner

Age: 20
From: London
Height: 5'5"
Occupation: TV interpreter
Disability: Deaf

Lilli lives in a London flat with her best friend, Naomi. They met through their jobs at See Hear, the BBC's long-running series for deaf and hard of hearing viewers, where she has been a presenter for the past ten years. Lilli was born profoundly deaf, which means that she cannot hear anything at all, though she's very good at lip reading.

Lilli works with deaf-blind people twice a week. She says it is emotionally fulfilling and draining at the same time. She also started kick-boxing last year and already has four belts. Lilli has done some modeling in the past, and hopes that her unique looks will help her to challenge the way disabled people are perceived by others.

Kelly Knox

Age: 23
From: Enfield
Height: 5'8"
Occupation: Credit controller
Disability: No left forearm

Kelly lives with her mum in her hometown of Enfield. She's very family-oriented, and particularly dotes on her niece and two young nephews. Kelly was born without a left forearm and when she was eight years old, she made a conscious decision not to wear a prosthetic arm as she doesn't like them.

Kelly Loves partying and going to warehouse raves with her mates. When she's not partying, she likes to take the time out to write poetry, as it allows her to express herself more deeply. Although Kelly is new to the modeling world, she loves being in front of the camera. She thinks she'd make a great model as she is so comfortable in her own skin. Kelly describes herself as a happy-go-lucky kind of girl, and her mates all agree.

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Cite This Page (APA): Langtree, I. C. (2008, July 22). Britains Missing Top Model with a Disability. Disabled World. Retrieved April 14, 2024 from

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