Gemma Flanagan suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome and is wheelchair-bound
Gemma Flanagan suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome and is wheelchair-bound

Wheelchair model Gemma Flanagan stars in lingerie campaign championing diversity

"Society isn’t made up of one woman"

Rachel Hosie
Wednesday 16 November 2016 14:28

Body-positive lingerie brand Curvy Kate has launched a new campaign aiming to promote diversity and challenge perceptions of sexy.

The campaign, #TheNewSexy, celebrates diverse beauty with its line-up of eight models of varying ages, skin tones and body shapes, including 34-year-old wheelchair user, Gemma Flanagan.

Gemma suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and after her diagnosis five years ago, now spends most of her time in a wheelchair.

Gemma Flanagan in #TheNewSexy campaign

Previously an air-stewardess, Gemma’s life changed overnight: “Five years ago I was loving life travelling the world in my dream job as cabin crew for British Airways. I loved travelling, being active and didn't give many things a second thought,” revealed Gemma.

Since her diagnosis, Gemma has been working hard to rebuild her health and her life: “I had to find my own identity again and learn to love my new (slightly different) body,” said Gemma, admitting that she felt disheartened when looking through magazines and not seeing anyone she could relate to.

“I am proud that I have come through something so negative and I try to use it in a positive way wherever I can,” Gemma says.

Joining Gemma in the uplifting campaign are seven other women with equally inspirational stories.

There’s 24-year-old Paige Billiot, who was born with a ‘Port-Wine Stain’ birthmark; alopecia sufferer Yasmin Taylor, also 24; and 65-year-old Janet Rook.

In another groundbreaking move, Curvy Kate have cast breast cancer ‘previvor’ Carla Atherton in the campaign. In 2014 Carla tested positive for the BRCA gene, which meant she had an increased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers.

Carla decided to have a double Mastectomy followed by reconstructive surgery to rebuild her breasts, but felt sad that women who’d undergone major surgery weren’t being represented in mainstream media: “I am confident and sexy with how I am now,” she said.

The campaign is undoubtedly rare in the fashion world, but according to Curvy Kate, we shouldn’t even be interested in it: “The use of diverse role models should no longer be newsworthy; it’s something all companies should practice in all areas,” said Head of PR and Marketing, Hannah Isichei.

“Women of all shapes, sizes and looks model our collections as we believe a larger variety of models should be seen by all. Society isn’t made up of one woman and we know our customers are all different, so why not give them someone they can recognise,” she said.

It can only be a step in the right direction.

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