An Indian teenage girl who lost one eye and whose face was brutally disfigured in an acid attack marched down the New York catwalk today to screams of joy and acclaim in what she said. called an experience that changed his life.
19-year-old Reshma Qureshi took her nerves and took to the runway like a pro in a stunning cream and flowery dress all the way to the floor by Indian designer Archana Kochhar on the official first day of New York Fashion Week.
“I feel really good and the experience has been great,” she told AFP afterwards, speaking in Hindi through an interpreter. “I feel like it has definitely changed my life.”
She was invited to participate by FTL Moda, a fashion production company committed to challenging the industry’s beauty stereotypes and which last year invited a model with Down’s syndrome to participate.
Qureshi, whose ambition remains to finish the last two years of high school and go to college, said she hoped her participation would send a powerful message to other acid attack survivors.
“Why shouldn’t we enjoy our life? What happened to us is not our fault and we didn’t do anything wrong and therefore we also have to move forward in life,” she said. to AFP the day before the show.
Acid attacks, which massively target women and children, are a particular scourge in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the West Indies and the Middle East.
In India, an estimated 500-1,000 attacks take place each year, and although they rarely kill, they leave serious physical, psychological and social scars that can see victims ostracized and hidden.
Show took place the same day an Indian court sentenced a man to death for murdering a 24-year-old woman by throwing acid in her face after rejecting his marriage offer, in a landmark judgment.
Since Qureshi was attacked by her brother-in-law in 2004, cornered by her friends and her face wet with acid, she has become the face of a campaign to end the open sale of acid in India.
As slim as any professional model and with thick, luxurious hair, she appears in YouTube videos, filmed in her home port of Mumbai, offering beauty and makeup advice.
Moments before reaching the podium, she latched onto the arm of a floor assistant. But with her hair styled in a bun with a delicate headdress, professional makeup, and her model figure flattered by the curves of the dress, she quickly went natural.
“I mean to the world – don’t see us in a dim light and see that even we can go out and do things,” she told AFP.
“People tend to look at acid attack survivors from a certain point of view and I don’t want them looking at them like that anymore,” she said.
Backstage, she was kissed by another model, then loaned out to the balcony to watch part of the rest of the show, which featured evening and day wear for men and women by a handful of different designers.
As the audience of stylists, bloggers and members of the Indian diaspora shouted and applauded, Qureshi had shown himself on the eve of the show rather overwhelmed and naturally quirky.