Wheelchair User Proves there is a New Sexy by Starring in Diverse Lingerie Campaign

Gemma Flanagan, a wheelchair user, has recently flown the flag for disabled people everywhere by taking part in Scantilly by Curvy Kate’s second edition of the #TheNewSexy campaign. This season’s campaign shares another diverse line-up of powerful females ready to challenge mainstream perceptions of ‘sexy’. The new boudoir collection is modelled by women with an array of skin tones, body shapes, backgrounds, abilities and ages; all with the aim of celebrating the beautiful diversity of women.

Gemma Flanagan, 34, suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). The 33 year old, who was diagnosed with the condition 5 years ago, is now mostly wheel-chair bound due to the auto-immune disease. She was completely paralysed, spending a year in intensive care and a large amount of time in a rehabilitation centre. She has spent the last 5 years rebuilding her life and learning her ‘normal’ functions again. Despite this huge set back, Gemma has a positive outlook on life, and regularly take part in shoots with ‘Models of Diversity’ who strive to have people from all walks of life represented in the media.

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Gemma states, “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. Overnight everything changed when I was taken into hospital and diagnosed with an illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). Since then I rebuilt my health, life and learnt to live as a young woman with disabilities. I had to find my own identity again and learn to love my new (slightly different body). Although it’s been difficult, I know I am a much stronger, nicer, more caring person now, than I ever was before. I am proud that I have come through something so negative and I try to use it in a positive way wherever I can.”

The UK now has 11.9 million disabled people across the country, over half of which are within working age, that’s one in five, a shocking statistic considering the lack of diversity seen in advertising. This absence is supported by a report run by The Fashion Spot in November 2016, exploring the range of models cast for Autumn/Winter Fashion Campaigns. Out of 438 models across 190 print campaigns, they found that only 23.3% of the models we’re of colour, only 4.1% were over the age of 50 and a disappointingly low 3.2% were plus size (over a UK size 16). #TheNewSexy has challenged these biases with models from all walks of life and, in the process, inspired people around the world to love their bodies.

Following the overwhelming success of the first campaign, the original stars were invited to select the next generation of inspiring models. Through this ‘Pay-it-forward’ system, eight women were chosen and photographed in the new Scantilly boudoir collection. These icons will be the core of the brand’s marketing plan and signify a new era for diversity in the fashion industry and wider.

Head of PR and Marketing, Hannah Isichei follows: “The use of diverse role models should no longer be news worthy; it’s something all companies should practice in all areas. #TheNewSexy campaign isn’t a one-off. 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.”

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When speaking of the campaign, Gemma says, “During my recovery I became so withdrawn and down on myself as I felt like I had lost so much of me. When I came across the amazing movement that is Models of Diversity (MOD) and I was instantly hooked. The message that everyone should be represented within fashion really hit home with me as I had gone from being an ‘average’ girl looking in magazines and seeing images which I could empathise with, to now being a girl in a wheelchair with no one at all in these mags that I could relate to in any way!

“The world we live in is diverse but yet the fashion industry is a very ‘perfect cookie cutter’ type world that is so unrelatable to the majority of people. We are the customers and we buy the clothes but we are not all represented. The industry is so powerful and has so much influence over us all that it should take more responsibility for the images it portrays. Diversity isn’t a novelty that should be ‘used’. It should just be the norm.”

The fourth Scantilly collection is available through curvykate.com, Debenhams, Bare Necessities (US) and Figleaves. The range including peep-hole briefs, sexy suspenders, half cup balcony bras and sheer basques is available in sizes DD-HH cups and S-XL. For more information please visit: www.curvykate.com.

To read the next installment of the campaign with Paige, click here.

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