Image: Rebekah Marine
Image: Rebekah Marine
Breaking into the modeling world can be incredibly tough. And even for those who do make it, the industry remains a fickle one – a place where judgmental designers and executives reign supreme and there’s no guarantee that your current popularity will last.
For Rebekah Marine, however, securing a big break was even more challenging. Indeed, the New Jersey-based model had earlier in life been discouraged from even entering the industry – perhaps down to the fact that she is a congenital amputee, having lacked a right forearm from birth.
Still, the glamorous 28-year-old has refused to give up on her dream, and now that dream seems to be coming true. Marine has booked a high-profile gig with Italian design outfit FTL Moda, which hired her to grace the catwalk at its New York Fashion Week show in September 2015.
The FTL Moda job was far from Marine’s mainstream modeling breakthrough, either, as she also turned up in the prestigious pages of Nordstrom’s anniversary catalog for 2015. Marine’s success is testament to her sheer determination, and she’s done it all with one of the most technologically cutting-edge prosthetic forearms available.
Marine’s first experience of a prosthesis actually came way back in grade school. At that time, though, she struggled to adjust to the mechanical device, and so it was eventually jettisoned as an option.
Interestingly, although while growing up Marine always aspired toward being a model, she initially settled for a conventional career after being told in no uncertain terms that her ambition would never be realized.
Come the age of 22, however, Marine decided to revisit what prosthetics were available to her, and she chose in the end to have a myoelectric replacement hand and forearm device fitted.
In fact, it was when the New Jersey resident was in the process of acquiring the prosthesis that a friend proposed something that would totally change her path in life. They put forward that Marine should take to modeling her new hand and forearm, a suggestion that Marine took up with gusto.
And it was a move that has since garnered Marine a great deal of attention in the media, opening the door for appearances on TV shows like Good Day Philadelphia, on which she was interviewed in 2014. Prominent print publications such as Cosmopolitan and the New York Post have also featured the model within their pages.
However, Marine’s rise to becoming one of the most famous amputee models around hasn’t always been smooth – and, in fact, some within the industry still can’t get over her difference from the norm.
“Being a model with a disability has been extremely difficult over the past couple years,” Marine explained in a 2015 interview with Mashable. “Agencies often won’t even look at my portfolio.”
In that interview she did add, though, “But I’ve come to realize it’s all about finding your niche. I’ve accepted that most clients may not want to work with me based on my ‘disability.’”
In addition to the modeling, Marine has capitalized on her growing fame to help bring wider awareness of people living with congenital limb differences and those who work with and for them. Chief among her other endeavors, for example, is her role as a representative of Touch Bionics, a now multinational leader in prosthetics and support for those who need them.
And it’s Touch Bionics that has given Marine her most cutting-edge prosthesis to date, for the model now boasts the company’s thoroughly advanced i-limb quantum – enabling her to grip items with as much ease as is possible with any prosthetic hand on the market.
What’s more, Marine elsewhere works as a champion of the Lucky Fin Project, a Michigan-based not-for-profit organization aiding and raising the profile of those born with hand and foot limb differences – conditions collectively known medically as symbrachydactyly.
And at a time when almost a fifth of people in the United States have some form of disability, Marine believes that the time has come for the modeling industry to embrace and tap into the talent of those individuals.
After all, as the model said in her interview with Mashable, “[The fashion industry] should be celebrating uniqueness, not conforming to what the media thinks is beautiful.”
What’s certain most of all, then, is that Marine’s is a truly inspirational story and one that stands as testament to what can be achieved against the odds through a powerful combination of talent, positivity and determination. And yet the model admits that her greatest ambition is still to be realized.
“Above all, I hope to land on the cover of Vogue one day – that’s my personal goal. And I won’t stop until I get there,” Marine said to Mashable. And given her success so far and the boundaries she has broken in the fashion industry, it’s probably only a matter of time before that dream comes true as well.