Chelsea Jay, 25, suffers from a rare disorder that causes her to faint when standing, therefore using a wheelchair is imperative for her condition.
Still, she was able to land a modeling contact with European agency, BMA Models.
“They have taken a risk in signing me, which I have so much respect for, as the sad reality is, I am one of very few disabled people that are getting the chance to be represented, and being given opportunities in the industry,” the U.K. model announced on her Facebook page earlier this month.
“This is so exciting and so wonderful and I am really looking forward to the next year and the new adventure,” she continued.
Jay told Epoch Times she used to work as a director of disability for a campaigning charity called Models of Diversity. They held meetings with different agencies to discuss representing models with disabilities.
“Angel, the founder, met with BMA, and they saw my pictures and liked what I was about. I was very lucky!” Jay said, adding that she was very surprised because when agencies see her wheelchair it’s usually “game over”and “the shutters go down,'” she said.
The fact that BMA is open to it, “exploring it, actually making effort to move forward is amazing, and I so hope that other agencies will follow suit, sooner rather than later,” she said.
Despite Jay’s enthusiasm for the new job, she is still adjusting to the change. With Models of Diversity she always worked behind scenes. It’s different now that the spotlight is on her.
“I was having meetings with brands and agents selling other people—not myself. So this really is all new for me, to actually be the one whose career is the focus. I wouldn’t have dreamt of trying to get model representation for myself, as the fashion industry has taught me a lot over the last 3 years. They fear disability.”
Also, despite landing a contract with BMA, Jay wants people to know that she is just like any other girl.
“I have the same insecurities as other girls, with the added elephant in the room. I’m a wheelchair user, and I am stared at, gawked at, pointed at in everyday life,” she told Epoch.
“I am lucky though. … honestly, I really do not need approval of anyone, and I am on the whole, pretty happy in my skin,” she continued.
About four years ago, the disabled British model was diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PTS), causing an abnormal increase in her heart rate when she stands, which causes her to faint. Jay was only 20 years old when she first collapsed. It took a year for her to get her diagnosis, she told Epoch.
According to Rare Disease, 46 percent of patients with a rare disease have to wait over a year for a correct diagnosis following the onset of symptoms.
“Living with it [PTS] over the past 4 years has been … semi-dream like. Is this my life? Is this real? I think [about] where I lived 20 years ago, strutting around on my legs without a care in the world, then to this extreme, will have that effect, I guess,” she said.
But she has unusual periods of normalcy: “I have a crazy body cheat, where if I swim or go on an airplane, I can stay walking on my legs for 24 hours. (Something to do with the pressure compressing my blood vessels and forcing blood to do its job correctly). However, it only lasts until I fall asleep. I wake up disabled again the next morning and very poorly because of the shock and impact on my system,” she said.
Jay can only cheat her body for special occasions, like a wedding or a party.
“Its bittersweet. I struggle with this bit the most. It’s like my own body is taunting me,” she said.
Yet she tests her body constantly because she’s been told she could grow out of the condition. “The ‘switch’ that turned off in my body [could] suddenly turn on again,” she said.
When asked what advice does she have for children in her shoes, she said: “You cannot expect people to not care about disability and to hire you if you yourself are hung up on it. Accept this is your life, and you have no do-over, and that you can, and will, get what you want if you fight for it.
“Being like me you will be given no chances, so make your own, by showing. Be the proof in the pudding,” she said.
Her life motto: “Not everyone makes a stand, standing.”
“It speaks for itself, I think.”