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EXCLUSIVE: Meet the world’s first wheelchair-bound professional model, Alexandra Kutas

Alexandra Kutas, the professional model from Ukraine, has been on a wheelchair since birth, and she just signed up with Strawberrifox, a modelling agency in Delhi.

fashion and trends Updated: Aug 12, 2017 13:55 IST
Snigdha Ahuja
Snigdha Ahuja
Hindustan Times
Alexandra Kutas,Ukraine,Model
Alexandra Kutas is a 23-year-old model from Ukraine, who has been signed by Strawberrifox modelling agency in India.(Raajessh Kashyap/HT)

Wearing sunshine citrus hues with a smile that lights up the room, Alexandra Kutas looks at home when we meet her on a sweltering evening, at her temporary abode in Delhi. Even with hardly any makeup on, Kutas embodies confidence that one could expect from a professional model, instantly evident with the click of our camera. After the impromptu photo session, we sit down to talk with the Ukrainian, bound to a wheelchair since birth, and freelancing as a model for various brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Fedor Vozianov.

“It has been two years of contacting different agencies all around the world and in spring this year, me and my manager from the US sent more than 300 letters to agencies around the globe. Most of them told me the world is not ready for a model in a wheelchair. Others were more positive but said it’d be difficult to get a work permit for me. But then, I got an offer from India, and I here I am.” Isn’t she afraid of rejection in India too?
“Well, I thought to myself “Why not? Worse comes to worst, it’s just going to be an interesting journey in a different part of the world,” says the 23-year-old. Signed by Strawberrifox Model Management in Delhi,
Kutas landed in the city last weekend. The agency pitches itself as pro-diversity, having also put American model Rhyan Atrice on the Delhi runway, the first African American to do so.

Kutas’s fashion shoot styled by Brunilda Culaciati. ( Karina Poltavceva )

Being discovered by a photographer in a cafe five years back gave her the opportunity for her first shoot. “When I started in Ukraine, no one thought that the girl in the wheelchair could be a model. But now, I am doing this not only at home, but all over the world. Unfortunately still, the market is not diverse. But I know for a fact that no matter what happens to my career, there’s going to be a day when it’s going to be totally normal for a disabled person to be a model. Fashion is not just about fancy clothes, It reflects the society we live in. So we will evolve.”

Kutas’s American shoot styled by Brunilda Culaciati. ( Karina Poltavceva )

Did she ever wish she was different? “I had a birth injury due to a doctor’s mistake, I never walked in my life. So, I never had the feeling that I wish I was someone different, because I don’t really know how it is. I always wanted two things — first, to be happy and second, to do the best with what I have. Other models have to strive to be ‘unusual’. But for me, I just have to be myself, which is anyway unusual. I am my own competition so I never felt like I had to be someone besides myself ,” says Kutas .

Her inspiration? Double amputee Aimee Mullins, who made a career in fashion with a push from the late fashion legend, Alexander McQueen. “In India, I hope I would be lucky to find a designer who’d want to put me on the runway. When you are on a wheelchair, there are so many ways to present it on the ramp to make it more like a fashion performance. In Ukraine, I entered the runway on a special chair made for me, carried by four men,” said Kutas, who says acting — even a shot at Bollywood — features in her plans.

Alexandra Kutas’s runway appearance at designer Fedor Vozianov’s showcase. ( Uly Pashkova )

An official disability advisor to the city of Dnipro in Ukraine, the psychology major says there’s no reason for any physical challenge to act as a dream thwarter. I believe in a saying: ‘Everything is possible, impossible just takes a little bit more time.’” So, Keep pushing, she insists. “The industry might not be ready..but with your work, you make it ready.”

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 17:38 IST