Cambridge Style Week would like to highlight the need for the fashion industry to show diversity among the models that it uses, which is a goal shared by model and single amputee, Jonas Zimnickas.
Jonas, 31, was born with a deformed lower right leg and foot which he had amputated at the age of 19 in Warsaw, Poland. He is Lithuanian but was born in northern Poland. After having the lower part of his leg amputated he came to work in England to pay his sister back for lending him money to buy a prosthesis. In 2010 he had the opportunity to try a variety of sports as there was a talent search for the Paralympics. He trained for two years, in Cambridge and London alongside Jonny Peacock, who went on to win gold at the Paralympics. Although Jonas was lucky enough to be chosen to run in the Paralympic test event at the Olympic stadium, he didn't make the final qualifying time and was unable to compete in the 2012 Paralympics.
Now a self-employed personal trainer, Jonas focuses on building up his business 'fitnessjonas', as well as on fitness modelling. In his first competition he came 4th out of over 40 competitors nationwide and received a great response from the media and public, not just in the UK, but all over the world, appearing on the main national news channels in Lithuania and on websites worldwide.
"I started to believe that maybe disabled people could be taken seriously as models too. I believe that as a nation the UK is very open minded about people with physical disabilities and recognises their ability in sport already. I think there is still a long way to go before people with disabilities are taken seriously and regarded as being as attractive and marketable as role models, as those who are able bodied. I want to break down any remaining barriers, which prevent those who are disabled from viewing themselves as equally able and attractive as those who are able bodied” explains Jonas.
Training for competitions and events is more difficult with a disability and Jonas is often in pain in his knee and back and can get skin ulcers on his stump which can make it very difficult to put on his prosthesis and walk. “I do however have loads of determination to learn and succeed. Being thought of as less able, both physically and academically when I was young, sometimes plays on my mind, but every day I challenge my limits, physically in the gym and academically by running and expanding my business. It is important for both able bodied and disabled people that those with disabilities are seen regularly as role models in the public eye, no different to those without disabilities, to ensure equality and show everyone that anything is possible."