The stage is set and the models are ready for the bright lights.
“Do you feel nervous?” Global News asked 14-year-old Calgary model James Friedman. “No,” he replied swiftly. “I feel good.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by 13-year-old, Kelty Allanach. “I’m not nervous anymore,” said Allanach. “It’s awesome.”
Allanach, who lives with cerebral palsy, is one of three models with various disabilities that will be part of the runway show put on by Toronto Kids Fashion Week (TKFW) this season.
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“I remember school pictures years ago where she would ask not to have her wheelchair or her walker in the picture,” said Allanach’s mom, Katie MacMillan. “That’s no longer the case.”
Just over a year ago, MacMillan started a new kind of modeling agency, now advocating for over 130 diverse young Canadians. It’s an initiative that began after helping her own daughter navigate her debut into the fashion industry.
“[We] had a handful of good experiences, but overall, we were just left with a feeling like the industry didn’t really know what to do with disability,” said MacMillan.
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Annika Van Vliet is one of the models MacMillan has since signed on to her team. The 14-year-old, who lives with Down syndrome, arrived in Calgary earlier this week to attend a number of rehearsals.
“I’ll get ready and then go on the runway and walk. And everyone will cheer about me,” said Van Vliet with a smile.
“We want to make sure that all these kids are represented properly so that kids watching can see themselves on the runway — can see themselves doing something like this,” said TKFW choreographer Brooke Anderson.
TKFW will host three shows in Calgary Saturday before moving on to Edmonton next weekend.
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