Extraordinary Models: meet Aimee Mullins

Propelled into the top 50 most beautiful women in the world by People magazine in 2000, Aimee Mullins is both a great athlete and an exceptional model. Aimee deserves her beauty title, because not only she is gorgeous, but also because her brave heart has led her to overcome many difficulties.

A modern fairy tale…?

She was born in 1975 with a leg problem. Amputee below the knee at the age of one year, she grew up accepting her difference and sublimating it.

Although she comes from a working-class environment, her tenacity gave her access to the most prestigious studies.

To pay for her studies, she took small jobs like delivering newspapers and door-to-door sales. A father was Irish, a mason, and her mother was a saleswoman who almost became a nun.

This is actually not a fairy tale. Others would have quickly given up the idea of a prestigious life, but her parents taught her how to be resilient in the gloomy setting of Pennsylvania, against a backdrop of factories in ruins.

She first attended Parkland High School in Allentown but often had to be absent in order to attend the hospital. She then studied at Georgetown University in Washington. Then, she got chosen for a scholarship for an internship from the Pentagon as part of a program for the Department of Defense. In exchange for her scholarship, she was obliged to work seven years for the state. After 2 years she gave this up because she got tired of hearing people complaining about their lives.


She then discovered athletics which she practiced at a high level. At first, she thought it was impossible.

« Running with one leg less requires 40% more oxygen and twice the energy. So, with two legs less … One kilometer for you, it’s four for me. » she says.

An athlete at the Paralympics of Atlanta…

She became the first amputee athlete to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. She was at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta, and at just 19, she broke the world records in the 100-meter, 200-meter and long jump.
To her, her success is part of the American dream :

« This is America, she says. If a little girl with an amputated leg has a dream, she finds people who help her fullfil it ».

This is no less than an American success story. People can’t get enough of her and she begins to appear on the covers of magazines. She is invited to conferences of movers and shakers. She promoted the Women’s Sports Foundation, of which she became president in 2007.  

Love-wise, she fell in love at the age of 15. And here again, Aimée Mullins’s makes light of her problems.

“When he realized … it was too late, he was already addicted. One of his friends had just told him: “It’s nice to go out with her,” he did not understand. I thought he knew.”

Aimee Mullins
Aimee Mullins

A fashion model and actress

The fashion designer Alexander McQueen noticed her and asked her to take part in his London show, wearing hand-carved ash prostheses. Immediately, the criticism began. The stylist was criticized for taking advantage of Aimée’s disability to promote his work.

He defended himself: “I just want to expand the idea of beauty”.

As for Aimee Mullins, she ironically quips: ” Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do.  »

Expanding the criteria of beauty…

Breaking the canons of classical beauty takes courage, not only for models but also for stylists and photographers. Aimee had the chance to meet generous and inventive creators. And for her, luck was not going to stop there.

In 2004, photographer Nick Knight chose her for the Pirelli calendar. A career in acting then opened up to her and she appeared in an episode of the series Hercule Poirot adapted from the novels of Agatha Christie. Subsequently, Oliver Stone insists on getting her on the cast of his film World Trade Center as a journalist.

On the cinema side, she was also a member of some festival juries, such as the Kars Festival in 2008 and the Taormina Film Festival in 2009.

At the end of 2010, Aimee Mullins sealed a partnership with the L’Oréal Foundation to “defend another vision of beauty and rethink canons of beauty in an era of robotics and bionics”.

And she takes this relationship with L’Oréal seriously:

«The ‘Because I’m worth it’ tag line means a lot to me,” Mullins says. “Beauty is not skin deep; it can be a means of self-affirmation, a true indicator of personality and confidence »

Aimee Mullins for L'Oréal
Aimee Mullins for L’Oréal

Now, the public has come to know this new muse who has 12 pairs of prosthetic legs and can go from 1m72 to 1m85 according to her whims or the requirements of a fashion show.

When we talk about her we often mention her leg bag that she never leaves. She does not take offense and has learned to speak without embarrassment of the hybridization of her body with technologies.

Matthew Barney in his film Cremaster has created a hybrid character that she marvelously embodies with glass legs. She can also be seen in the Netflix production and hit series Stranger Things.

She now participates in scientific symposiums on hybridization and sees herself as a kind of prototype:
«People who were earlier seen as disabled can become architects of their own identity».

However, Aimee Mullins concludes her interview about the future of hybridization by this prophetic formula:

« Everything can be replaced, except for the soul».

But as always with Aimee Mullins, the humor comes after the depth. Never dramatize. Her dream?

«Rocket prostheses to fly or levitate. That would be great. I often dream of riding legs that run on their own».

This supermodel never ceases to amaze us …

The Women’s Museum recognizes Aimee Mullins as one of the greatest female figures of the 20th century, and in 2017 she became one of the youngest women in the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Thierry AZZOPARDI

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