Rebekah Marine On Modeling Without Limits
Advocacy Despite being born without her right forearm, Rebekah Marine has defied all odds in the fashion industry.
Off the runway, Rebekah Marine considers how she models her own style of resilience to young girls, amputees and aspiring fashion models.
What was the biggest moment of adversity that you faced?
Rebekah Marine: Getting noticed in such a competitive business was my biggest struggle. When I first started this journey about 6 years ago, diversity in the fashion industry wasn't “in.” Photographers and agencies didn't really quite grasp the idea of working with a limb-different model. I’d like to think my biggest moments of adversity are behind me now.
Who are the people that kept you motivated to keep striving for your dreams?
My family has been hands down my biggest supporters throughout all of this. I think they’re somewhat relieved to see me comfortable in my own skin. But it’s the kids that keep me motivated in such a cutthroat industry. You have to have some pretty thick skin to be in the position I’m in. When I read comments from little girls saying, ”I want to be just like you when I grow up,” I realize why I started this journey.
What was the turning point that allowed you to take a step forward in your career?
Walking in New York Fashion Week was a huge turning point for me. For me, that’s when I realized that I could be taken seriously in this industry. People have now dubbed me the ”bionic model,” and that’s a pretty cool feeling.
“'I’ve gone from getting what-is-she-doing-here looks to 'Wow, you’ve got a great look.'”
What influenced you to pursue a career in modeling?
I think I’ve always had the ”modeling bug.” When I was younger, I always played with makeup and fun clothes. It seemed like a natural choice for me. When I was about 12 years old, my mom took me to the Big Apple to meet with an agency. That’s when I heard those dreadful words: ”You’ll never have a career in this industry.” It was at that moment I realized I was different, and I gave up my dream of becoming a model. It wasn’t until 10 years later when I decided to give it another shot.
What’s your favorite shoot to have been a part of?
My first real shoot was with Nordstrom, and I’ll never forget that experience. I relentlessly emailed the casting producer for over a year, and I finally got my chance in 2015 when I was chosen to shoot for their anniversary catalog. I remember saying to myself, ”I made it.” I finally felt like a real model, as silly as that sounds. All of that hard work finally paid off, and I’m grateful for Nordstrom for giving me that opportunity.
As the modeling industry continues to evolve what changes have you personally seen and what’re your hopes for the future of the industry?
The biggest change I’ve seen personally is the way people in the industry treat me. I’ve gone from getting what-is-she-doing-here looks to “Wow, you’ve got a great look.” It’s a good feeling to know that I can be taken seriously as any other model in the industry now. In the future, I hope to see more inclusion in major brands. I have no doubts we’re headed in this direction, and I’m excited to see what’s still ahead.
You got the chance to walk in this year’s NY Fashion Week. Can you tell us what that experience meant to you?
Every season at NYFW has been incredible for me, but this past season I’m partial to. This season I got to bring Gianna Schiavone, also born like me, down the runway. Between the two of us, I don’t know who was more excited. For me, it somewhat symbolized me passing the torch for future generations to come. Gianna may not know it now, but she made a huge impact for little girls all over the world. It was truly a blessing to be able to share that moment with her.
You are a motivational speaker. What’s the key message you hope to pass along to others?
My message is that we should be celebrating uniqueness; not conforming to what the media thinks is beautiful. It’s important to embrace your ”you-ness,” otherwise we’d be living a life by unrealistic standards.