This Latvian is about to completely mess up and rearrange the way you see disability.
Her name is Viktoria Modesta and she, at 20 years old, had an elective lower leg amputation due to an neglectful doctor’s accident at her birth.
But that is literally the last thing you think about (yet somehow also the first) once you see her as “the model of the future”: the world’s first Bionic Pop Star.
She wears some of the most high-fashion prosthetics I’ve ever seen, most of which are created by Sophie de Oliveira Barata at the Alternative Limb Project, who works offer prosthetics as fashion accessories, and creates fantasies through extreme shapes and high design.
The first time I wore a limb that was so obviously BIONIC, it gave me a total feeling of uniqueness and feeling of mutant human in the best way possible.
At 26 years old, Modesta has been doing this Bionic Pop Star thing for five years. She’s been included in a New York Times piece featuring Alternative Limb Project and their beautiful work, and was highlighted as the Snow Queen during the opening of the Paralympics in 2012.
I discovered her after seeing one of the most arresting images ever:
And reading the accompanying feature on Viktoria Modesta by Dazed Digital. There, I learned about her intentions to elevate the perception of disabilities by showing that disabled people can not only do exactly what people without disabilities can do – they can also do more.
Why? If you’re asking Viktoria Modesta – because they’re bionic.
Her most recent collaboration is with UK-local television network, Channel 4, that launched an initiative with Modesta called #BORNRISKY. The aim is to revamp the image of people with disabilities.
They thoroughly (in my opinion) achieved this goal by releasing an insanely edgy, Lady Gaga level production quality video that is six minutes of no-blinking as Viktoria Modesta stomps around in everything from a black, glass-cracking spike to a neon-lit, moth covered prosthetic.
BLINK! Don’t forget to blink.
Can you believe the power in this video? The message of “think again” when considering people with disabilities as having fewer abilities than people with all of their original limbs is so clear and strong. It’s not my place to be proud of this, but I immediately sent this video to my friends with disabilities because everyone – disabled or not – should see this.
It was thrust onto a ready-to-consume audience that didn’t know what they were about to experience. During the finale of X Factor in Britain, this video aired to introduce Viktoria Modesta to the world. Now that is an entrance.
I have never felt comfortable thinking of myself as disabled and this has inspired me to actively challenge old-fashioned views and create a platform in mainstream pop-culture, with other artists, where I have always known I belonged.
I want people to feel new feelings that they didn’t know they had. The time for boring ethical discussions around disability is over. It’s only through feelings of admiration, aspiration, curiosity and envy that we can move forward.
Imagine a music industry that included people who weren’t ready-to-sell packages of commercial beauty? What if we saw more people with amputated limps, lifelong bone diseases, or muscle malformations in our music videos – not as someone to be rescued by some hero, but the heroes, themselves! It would be a better world for everyone.
Photography by Ewelina Stechnij.