Seven-year-old model Holly Greenhow’s mum battled for two years to get her daughter into child modelling – even though Holly has athetoid cerebral palsy, and everything from sitting up to speaking is a challenge for her.
But now Holly’s one of the star models in the new Mini Boden childrenswear campaign because, said a spokesperson from Boden, ‘she shone in front of the camera’.
“Not many children with disabilities have the opportunities that other children have,” Holly’s mother Fiona told ITV News Anglia. “I wanted to show that you don’t have to be perfect to be in a magazine or online or in photographs, so that was my desire to push forward and get it done for Holly.”
Holly’s condition was caused by loss of oxygen at birth. She uses a wheelchair, and communicates using a computer that she operates with her eyes. She loves clothes, which is why her mum wanted to get her into modelling.
“Holly has so many things against her and, as her mother I just wanted her to be able to do something that any child would love to do, given the chance,” Fiona told MailOnline.
“She went for a casting in April, and did the shoot in the summer holidays with lots of other children at a studio in London. Holly really enjoyed it and loved being the centre of attention.”
Modelling agencies say that casting disabled models is rare. Marks & Spencer used Seb White, a little boy with Down Syndrome, in its Christmas campaign last year – but many agencies don’t have a single disabled child model on its books.
“As a consumer, I’m all for it, [but] I’m a businesswoman,” says Debi Clark, director of Bizzykidz, an agency that represents 900 children. “We have a duty as an agency to supply what the industry is requesting. I’m not in the business of taking on children we can’t get work for. It would be morally wrong; it would be misleading and unfair on the parents and the kids.”
Holly’s mother hopes that the Boden campaign will change this view. “I hope it will open people’s eyes,” she says, “to the fact there are lots of children out there who aren’t perfect.”