Limb Loss Doesn’t End Model’s Dream

After losing her left leg as a result of being hit by an intoxicated driver in December 2014, 20-year-old Paola Antonini was forced to reevaluate and rebuild her life.

The Brazilian model, now 26, had done a few modeling jobs before her amputation, and the modeling dream didn’t just disappear, regardless of some painful rejections in the beginning.

“I was supposed to participate in a fashion show,” she says. “They approved me in casting, and I was super excited. Then, three days before the show, they cut me because the director was afraid I would fall. I was really upset, but that gave me the strength to do much more. The first fashion show I participated in after that was magical. People got up and applauded, so it was even more special!”

While losing a limb might discourage some people from pursuing a modeling career, Antonini saw things differently. The loss of her leg changed her life and helped her find her purpose, she says. “I was never afraid to work as a model because I lost my leg. On the contrary. Although I sometimes had difficulties because of irregular terrain or other problems, I got used to them. For me, it always represented something bigger. I always had something very strong inside me pushing me to want to achieve incredible things. Losing my leg gave me a great desire not to stop—to instead do my best in everything.”

In time, modeling invitations came, and she was ready. The first was for an accessories brand. “I thought it was really cool because I didn’t know what it would be like after the accident—if I would go to work, go to college, or work as a model. It was all uncertain, so when I was offered this job, I was very happy. In addition to modeling, I was representing a group of people and accomplishing many things.”

One of Antonini’s favorite things about modeling is that it’s never the same, she says. “The makeup, the clothes, the proposal—everything is always different— and this is magical. I have the opportunity to be several people in one.”

Images courtesy of Össur.

For other amputees who would like to get into modeling, she offers encouragement. “I would tell them to give it everything,” she says. “I think that fashion has a lot of space, that it is changing. We have a long way to go, but brands are beginning to see the importance of portraying various people and biotypes. I think the campaigns that are most admired are those that represent diversity. It’s incredible to have the opportunity to represent a group of people, and it is an honor…. The start can be difficult, and there are times when you can receive a ‘no,’ feel tired, or think about giving up. But don’t give up. It is very possible! I am realizing dreams that I never imagined coming true so soon.”

Since her amputation, she’s been included in advertising campaigns for several major brands, including Neutrogena, Under Armour, and Össur, an international prosthetics manufacturer.

Still, Antonini isn’t just another pretty face; in addition to modeling, she has many other goals. “I want to open an institution this year to help people who are unable to buy prostheses,” she says. “I also want to write a book, and I’m presenting a TV show. I want to learn more each day.” After almost dying in 2014, she says she now wants to truly live.


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The following websites might be able to offer you inspiration or help you realize your dream:

Models of Diversity

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