Some might say it’s ridiculous to think you could ever become a successful model if you have a disability. Not true. Shannon Murray, a professional model and actress from the UK, didn’t subscribe to this sorry attitude after her injury (and to the delighted eyes of many).
Shannon first entered the disability world after breaking her neck in a diving accident when she was just 14 (while vacationing with family). She was injured at the C7 level, but was incredibly lucky and left the hospital a T2 paraplegic (she had an incomplete injury no doubt).
Growing up though, Shannon was all about acting and performance art. She loved it. But after her injury (like so many of us do), she thought it would no longer be possible to seriously consider it. But not so fast. In 1994 and only 4 years after injury, Shannon decided to give modeling a try after seeing an ad in the Sun paper for an upcoming disabled modeling search – Model in a Million.
Why she’s fearless
Being a stunner and a fighter, Shannon totally won the modeling contest, and that was when her career took off, acting-wise and modeling-wise. She’s appeared in several TV shows in the UK over the years, a short film in 2000, as well as her most prominent modeling gig-to-date (in 2010) – becoming the first model with a disability to be featured in a High Street fashion campaign (High Street is the UK equivalent to Rodeo Drive, or Fashion Ave in NYC). So cool!
This once-in-a-lifetime gig was for Denenhams, a very prestigious department store chain in the UK. At 32, this was Shannon’s biggest gig yet as a disabled model. She was featured in print media all over the city and was even a “living mannequin” (where you pose in a public store window and try not to move). I would’ve loved to have seen a wheelchair-user do the window mannequin thing (hopefully no spasms occurred).
She made another rukus in UK media recently when she starred in the popular British reality show, How to Look Good Naked. I love the concept of this show (it teaches women how to look their best in the nude; here is the US version of the show). They did a special episode using Shannon as their model and she modeled Fall/Winter wear and lingerie, which were styled by women who use wheelchairs. Watch the video here.
Thanks to the show, Shannon has been seen on double-decker buses across London, all in an effort to change how people look at disability and to expand their idea of what can be deemed fashionable (not an easy task!).
Despite being one of the most popular models on the rooster at the only disabled modeling agency in the UK, VisABLE People, Shannon has turned to other her career goal – becoming an article clerk (some kind of UK law career). “Be realistic,” she says about the life of a model with a disability. “I have always known that I’m not going to be the next Christy Turlington. Always have a backup job, as there simply isn’t enough work to make a comfortable living.”
In her spare time (when she’s not hanging out with her Golden Retriever or her fabulous boyfriend), she’s a passionate supporter of Body Gossip, an organization that campaigns for better representation of all body shapes and sizes (and issues) in the media. She’s also active with Back Up, a SCI to support network in the UK helping people live independent lives.
A woman who refuses to let an injury stop her from living out her passions. Yup, that is what we love about Shannon Murray.
Watch the videos!