She’s glamorous, beautiful and disabled. And Viktoria Modesta doesn’t let her disability stand in her way – quite the opposite. Indeed, she wholeheartedly embraces it, and now it seems that the music industry can’t get enough of her.
Born Viktorija Moskaļova in Daugavpils, Latvia in February 1987 as the Cold War was drawing to a close, Modesta came into the world fighting. A sickly child, she was afflicted with illnesses that would eventually force her family to relocate to the West.
Thanks to a negligent doctor who dislocated both her hip and leg at birth, Moskaļova would spend a lot of time as a child in and out of hospital. Consequently, she must have endured a tough childhood.
Eventually, after the young Modesta had gone through no less than 15 surgeries in Latvia to no avail, her parents moved the family to London, U.K. Their hope was that 12-year-old Modesta would finally receive the level of medical attention she so desperately needed.
However, things didn’t get much better. Because throughout her time at high school in England, her disability made her the target of bullies. And, unsurprisingly, the abuse and ridicule affected her deeply.
“Being [at school] was really intense, realizing for the first time how the world and people feel about you,” she told The Guardian. “[It was] absolutely horrific – being foreign, looking different.”
By the age of 14, Modesta was incredibly depressed. Still, despite her ongoing issues, she found solace in London’s vibrant alternative fashion and music scene – and at the age of 15 she began modeling.
Then, in the same year, the teenager made the brave, profound decision to have her problematic leg amputated. But it wouldn’t be as easy as that – indeed, it would take her five years to find a surgeon willing to do it.
Then, in 2007, Modesta went through with the surgery and had her left leg amputated below the knee. And far from setting her back, the amputation seemed to give Modesta a new lease of life.
“Building an identity that I was more comfortable with, as opposed to the one that was given to me, was very important,” she told The Guardian. And this new-found freedom would go on to inspire Modesta’s burgeoning creativity.
Since the age of six, Modesta had explored a passion for music. Her parents sent her to a performing arts school in Latvia where she learnt to play piano and how to sing professionally.
But her first foray into the music industry came in 2009 when she released her first collaborative track, “Jane Bond,” with producer Nik Hodges. However, it would be a little while longer before she fully established herself.
In May 2010 Modesta was continuing to climb the career ladder when a British TV show named her as one of the six best unsigned musicians in the U.K. Still, however, Modesta had failed to secure a record deal.
Determined to achieve her dreams and embrace her differences, Modesta released her debut single in May 2012 despite being unsigned. Subsequently, her song “Only You” enjoyed coverage in music magazines including i-D and Wonderland.
“Before, there was a lot of concern about how much investment I would need,” she said. “I had an alternative background, I used to do alternative modeling and people felt a bit scared about it.”
But in 2014 a video for her song “Prototype” produced by British TV station Channel 4 put her into the spotlight. The channel marketed her as the world’s first bionic pop star and the video went viral.
Instead of hiding Modesta’s disability, the music video showcases it. It’s sassy, artistic, controversial and has received tens of millions of views – while also being covered by publications from around the world.
Modesta still performs her unique brand of bionic pop all over the world. Indeed, in July 2016 she was a headliner at Toronto’s official Pride celebrations.
“I represent the feeling that you have a choice to create your own identity,” said Modesta. And she shows no sign of slowing down, her Instagram feed constantly buzzing with glitz and glamour.
Challenging traditional ideas of what it is to be a pop star, Modesta is a real inspiration. Her drive, determination and confidence are beyond impressive – and because of all that, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see her at the top of the charts in the future.