Portrait by Brian RolfeName: Debbie van der Putten Age: 27 Occupation: Model Place of birth: Helmond, The Netherlands Current residence: Helmond and London
I grew up in a small town in the south of the Netherlands called Helmond. I had a lovely childhood and to this day I am very close with my parents and sisters. Even though my sisters live a very different life to me – I can’t imagine life without them. I love to look after my sister’s kids. Spending time with friends and family is so valuable to me so I never let work and travel get in the way of quality time. Without my family I wouldn’t be who I am today so I try to find the balance between both worlds. In fact, we just enjoyed some sisterly time in New York and Vegas.
My life completely changed at the age of 19. My friends and I were travelling to Spain when our coach crashed in the South of France. Two people were killed and several badly injured. I lost my right arm in the crash, but I don’t look at it as a loss because I gained so much from that tragic accident. Life is what you make it and for me every day is a gift. Thanks to my disability I have had the chance to travel the world, work for amazing non-profit organisations and campaigns that inspire people.
Portrait by Brian Rolfe
Like everything career there are pros and cons. A handful of companies see disabled models as professional models so it can be severely underpaid. There is this mentality that it’s OK to book disabled models for free because they are doing the disabled community a favor. To be frank, it angers me because I have bills to pay. I take what I do very seriously and would like to do it full-time.
I have been represented by specialist agencies like Models of Diversity because mainstream agencies still don’t think that models with a disability can sell to their clients. They give reasons like ‘we don’t want to give false hope’ and many more. I always wonder how they can justify their reason if they have never tried. I’m not the only one! There are many more beautiful models like Shaholly Ayers from Hawaii who get turned down all the time. But we refuse to give up!
I hope that soon we can see a better representation of society in advertising and popular consumer magazines and disable models signed to agencies that work with popular brands. Women come in all shapes and sizes. I believe beauty is in the depths of a woman’s eyes. The happiness that comes from within is what makes us alluring.
Portrait by Marc Sakro
I am a ComplexdWoman because my determination to make a change and the fact I turned my biggest loss (my arm), into my biggest win!