An inspirational disabled woman who realised her dream of becoming a model is appealing for sponsorship to help her campaign for greater diversity in the fashion industry.
Katie Knowles, 24, was just a teenager when she was diagnosed with a rare spinal condition.
She feared she would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life after developing disc degenerative disease and spinal stenosis when she was 15. She was also diagnosed with hypermobility.
But the determined 24-year-old, who is a member of the Morpeth Riding for the Disabled Association at The Pegasus Centre, Tranwell, fought back and became a model, taking to the catwalk in London and featuring in a shoot for Weight Watchers.
Katie, from Jesmond, is a disability advocate for Models Of Diversity – a non-profit campaigning group that calls for more diversity in the fashion industry – and she has teamed up with three other disabled models from around the country to embark on a tour to raise awareness.
The aim of the campaign, which will take them around the UK, is to collect signatures on a petition to present to the Government. But university law graduate Katie needs financial support for the tour.
She said: “We want to help other aspiring models with disabilities to get into the fashion industry and I want to take this fight to Westminster.
“We want to change the lives of disabled people who are alienated because of their disability. We each need to raise £1,000 to fund our travel costs.”
Katie relies on crutches and a wheelchair to get about. She said The Pegasus Centre, which offers riding opportunities for disabled people, has been a massive help.
“It has been my saviour to be honest,” she said. “When I am on a horse, it feels like I can walk normally again.”
Katie, who wants to mix modelling with a career in law, is a finalist in the Miss Newcastle GB section of the Miss North East GB beauty pageant, to be staged later this month.
The winner of the Miss Newcastle crown will win a contract with a North East model and casting agency, as well as go through to the Miss Great Britain final.
To sponsor Katie for the tour, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org