If I am entirely honest, disability is not something I have much experience of. However, certain events have touched my life over the last 5 years which have made me think more about equality for anyone facing life with a disability both mental and physical.
When Rei Bennett asked if I would help style one of the shoots she had scheduled for her ‘Beauty Through Damage‘ project I was really excited about putting my skills to use in the same field, but with a different agenda in mind.
On 9th June I met model, presenter, broadcaster and writer Shannon Murray who it has to be said, is an expert in the field. I was excited, perhaps slightly nervous and a little in awe but only because I wanted to do a good job and tick all Rei and Shannon’s boxes for how they wanted the results to come across and the message they wanted to send out.
We picked two themes – one to recreate the famous Christine Keeler chair photograph, and the other to evoke an air of sumptuousness, richness and sparkle. The thing is, Shannon is in a wheelchair.
You can read all about her, what she is doing now, and where she is going in the future on her website here. There’s no doubt she is going places and has an unswaying devotion to her work in getting disability recognised in the media. And she’s doing a great job from what I heard during the hair and makeup sessions as we prepared to shoot.
Shannon didn’t let her accident, which left her a paraplegic when she was a teenager, stop her from pursuing her dreams and certainly she has turned what, for anyone, would be a devastating change of circumstances into a positive opportunity. From winning the UK’s first ever modelling competition for disabled people “Model in a Million” in 1994, to her work with Gok Wan on Channel 4’s “How to Look Good Naked…with a Difference”, and following this, her work with Debenhams, Shannon has gone from strength to strength. Most recently her acting credits include Casualty and she has appeared on numerous consumer radio and television programmes highlighting her work and the diversity message.
I think the results of our shoot are fabulous. The team was full of energy and there was a wonderfully happy atmosphere to the whole day even though the reason behind it was far more serious.
You can’t help but have enormous admiration for what Shannon is doing. Would I have managed as well as her had I been faced with such a change of circumstances? I would like to think I would, but something tells me I would find it hard and there’s no doubt it hasn’t been easy to make the adjustment. But she’s inspiring and I do hope I get to work with Shannon again at some point.
And hats off to Rei who continues to do incredible work for an unimaginably amazing cause. It has spiralled into a huge project and the amount of work that goes into every shoot is impressive.
If you are interested in working with Rei for her ‘Beauty Through Damage’ project, do drop her a line. She would love to chat to you!
Model: Shannon Murray
Hair Styling: Jason Clayton of Adore Hair
Make up: Ms Moo Make Up
Styling: Falcieri Designs
Photography: Rei Bennett Photography
Props for ‘Scandal’: Chris Lynn Photography