Life & Culture

Orthodox Jewish model breaks barriers at New York Fashion Week

Disabled model Lily Brasch walked in NY Fashion Week on Friday and made it in time to observe the Sabbath with her sisters


Models with disabilities are unusual. And models who are Orthodox Jews, rarer still. But when Lily Brasch walked down the catwalk at last week's New York Fashion Week she made history by being both.

Lily, 22, was the first model with muscular dystrophy to walk unassisted at a NY Fashion Week show and the second model with muscular dystrophy to take part in the event. She wore a gold sari from the Randhawa brand, which specialises in modern South Asian style.

Walking down the catwalk was not the only challenge for Lily, who often uses a wheelchair.

The show was scheduled for Friday at 5pm, and Shabbat came in six minutes later. So Lily stayed at a hotel nearby, and was able to light candles with her sisters after walking.

“They pushed it a few minutes, I was able to quickly go out there and walk," she says. "I didn’t stay for the rest of the show because I had to get off and start heading to the hotel with my sisters.”

“I’ve been raised with clear values, and I’ve been given the freedom to find my own,” she says. “But Shabbat has always been important to me. My Judaism has always been important to me."

When Lily was 16 years old, she was told she would not be able to walk due to her diagnosis of centronuclear myopathy, a rare type of muscular dystrophy.

“I think a lot of the reason I’m still positive, despite a condition that many would say is terrible, I mean I don’t think it is, I’ve learned a lot from having a muscle condition and I think of it as blessing. I think that has to do with the fact that I have a strong faith in God,” Lily says.

“I believe that everyone is here for a reason. I believe there is purpose. I believe that there are people struggling that can listen to this message. We don’t just live for ourselves. I strongly believe that. I think we live to help others. That’s my strong opinion and I think that’s what my religion tells me about community.”

The 22-year-old advocate, activist, founder Columbia student and model continues to defy the odds. “ I lift weights every week three times a week, sometimes four,” she says.

She founded the Born to Prove organisation which aims to foster positivity, empowering minds and 'dis-abling the word “disabled”. And she is making two documentaries including one 'My Everest' about climbing Camelback Mountain in Arizona .

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