A Kiwi model has been accused of photoshopping her leg amputation.
Cherie Louise, a 29-year-old model from New Plymouth, had her left leg amputated after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when she was 6 years old.
But, some social media users have cruelly accused her photoshopping off the limb in order to stand out and book jobs.
“People on social media often accuse me of faking having one leg and claim that I photoshop my leg out of my photos for attention,” Cherie said.
“I know their comments are ridiculous and easily disproved, so some might think it’s just funny when people say that … [but] for me, it’s quite annoying, given everything I’ve gone through to survive and get to a point I am now where I’m confident in who I am and what I look like.”
A post shared by Cherie (@cherie.louise)
Cherie was diagnosed with a bone cancer called osteosarcoma at age 6, after she kept getting a recurrent high fever and persistent pain in her left hip.
She had trouble running and keeping up with the other kids at school, and she was taken to countless medical appointments before finally being diagnosed.
Doctors told her she would need to have her entire left leg amputated.
The rare and risky amputation – known as an external hemipelvectomy – also required that half of Cherie’s pelvis be removed, making the use of a prosthetic leg almost impossible.
Therefore, Cherie has spent her life relying on crutches in order to get around – which led to her becoming extremely self-conscious about her disability.
“When I was young, I didn’t believe I would get a job, fall in love, have a family or any of those things because I’d never known an amputee who had,” she said.
“There were countless nights spent crying over photos of myself pre-amputation, questioning why it happened to me, wishing I would wake up one day and have two legs again.
“I always stood out, and that made me eventually retreat from doing things that brought me more attention, like playing sports.”
However, as she entered her 20s, Cherie said she found like-minded friends on social media and began sharing snaps of herself online.
“[It] actually played a big part in gaining self-confidence for me, because I found the more I put myself out there on social media, the less I cared about how people reacted to me in person,” she said.
“One thing that happened along the way, maybe five years ago now, was that I found a model with the same amputation as me on Instagram.
“I remember seeing that she had posted photos of herself in swimsuits and even had photos showing her scars.
“While I had shared many photos of myself, I’d never been brave enough to share something such as a swimsuit photo.
“Seeing her look amazing in these photos, and be such an amazing model and disability advocate really pushed away some of the remaining fears that I had.”
Now, with the modelling world becoming more inclusive, Cherie has found herself booking jobs with a number of international brands.
Her first official modelling job was for lingerie brand Bluebella which put out an open casting for a secret project.
But one of Cherie’s favourite bookings was for Modibodi, in June this year.
“What I loved about working with Modibodi is that it didn’t feel like they use diverse models for the ‘hype and likes’ – it feels like they genuinely believe the importance behind it,” she said.
A post shared by Cherie (@cherie.louise)
Cherie said she still believes in the positive power of social media, despite the fact she’s persistently trolled.
“I hope to be seen by disabled children who aren’t sure what the future has in store for them,” she said.
“I want to break into the industries that have forever made up stories for us, instead of letting us tell them.”
Cherie isn’t the only model blazing a trail for people with disabilities working in the industry.
Shaholly Ayers, a congenital amputee who was born without her lower right arm, posed for Nordstrom in 2019.
The same year, 9-year-old Daisy-May Demetre became the first double-amputee to walk a New York Fashion Week show.
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