My friend Jacqueline had, one day, spoken about this Instagram page called @truecomplexion, wherein people with various disabilities, diseases and disorders are featured to share their story. In short, it is a glorious, unassailable page dedicated to celebrating life, despite the hurdles the featured people went through in life – and trust me, they have been through A LOT. Just go and have look on Instagram and some of them (or all, like I did). Trust me, you’ll feel a whole lot inspired.
I was following this page already, and an InstaStory they posted grabbed my attention one random night while I was eating tom yam.
It was a post introducing this very special page … a movement called Project DON – a brand new talent and modelling agency. You may think, ugh, there are so many modelling agencies, blah blah blah, eating disorders and such, but this is how it stood out:
The models are all differently-abled.
And after scouring through their page, I also found that DON stood for Diversity, Opportunity and Novelty. How smart is that! They go by the saying ‘Beyond Labels’, which is so apt considering the differently-abled are often, if not always, confined, restricted and defined by their disabilities.
Naturally, I reached out because I genuinely wanted to find out who the geniuses were behind this idea, the people with so much guts to break boundaries and barriers. I got to speak to two out of the four people in charge of this project – one was Nadeera Vasu, and the other, Project DON’s founder, Bernard Nathan.
Nadeera has Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) Type III, and is a writer at heart even as she holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology whilst working as an HR Executive.
I asked her a couple of questions:
Why did you decide to partner with this movement?
People with disabilities or people who are deemed to be so called ‘different’ by society are usually sidelined and not given opportunities like these, so the idea is to break that stigma and be inclusive of everyone regardless of their physical experiences. That’s why this project was created 🙂
What are your hopes for and with this project?
Well, I sincerely hope we will be able to reach as many people out there. We really want more and more people to see that we too are capable of being portrayed in this manner regardless of how we look on the outside. Just because you see someone in a wheelchair, it doesn’t mean they can’t be models or actors and so on; we too can do these things just like everyone else – instead of just sitting behind the desk and a computer screen.
That’s what I’d really like people to see and realise. And we also sincerely hope that there will be more and more people out there willing to hire us as their models. Right now, we are reaching out to many brands and companies out there who hire models. Fingers crossed, we will receive some positive responses very soon!
Next, I spoke to Bernard – only 21 years old but so full of potential already, as along with being the founder of this project, he is also currently pursuing his Bachelor’s in Business Management at Segi University. Bernard himself has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3.
What inspired this project for you, and how did you come around to setting it up?
I always had this idea in mind since young, I guess you can say because of my passion and love for fashion, it made me notice how some brand campaigns and the media out there are not really using PWD (people with disabilities) as their models, and they are not really represented out there in the media as well. I also thought, maybe they wanted to have a PWD representative, but they don’t know where to find these people.
So, I decided to create the talent and modelling agency. I also didn’t have the team at first, but after going to MRDS (Malaysian Rare Disorders Society), I made some friends in one of their workshops, shared my dreams with them and to my surprise, they said they had this idea too but did not know where to start. So the partners involved in this are Nadeera, Miza (another person I met at MRDS) and my sister, Brenda.
What are your hopes for this movement, and what is the message you’d like to send out to people out there?
I hope it will break all stereotypes and remove the stigma that people have towards PWDs. PWDs can be fashionable, fun and outgoing too. They just need the right platform to get noticed out there. I also hope it will create more job opportunities and empower the PWD societies. I hope more brands and media will start approaching us and start working with our models.
For now, Project DON is relatively new, and is in the midst of compiling their portfolio and models.
Take a sneak peak:
Jeslinda is a make-up enthusiast and a beauty junkie, who loves travelling to places and meeting new people. Witty and generous, Jeslinda sees challenges as a blessing and that tough days do not last; tough people do. @jeslindaaa
Describing himself as an eccentric free spirit, Azfar loves to draw and explore the world by trying new stuff and meeting new people. He gets inspired by listening to the stories of others, and his goal is to help as many people as he can. Azfar embraces differences and believes that its differences that make a great community.
Well, what do you think? Pretty neat, huh?
Check them out at @projectdonmanagement and give them some love!
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