Our girl @Mya💕 did her thing on the runway 🤩 #PLTxNYFW ♬ original sound - prettylittlething
TikToker, dancer, and now runway model, Mya Pol is no stranger to rolling into new experiences. After suffering unexplained pain and exhaustion about two years ago, Mya started using a wheelchair for the first time. Coining herself as the "wheelie lady", Mya has used TikTok to share her experiences and raise awareness about the struggles disabled people face, all while gaining a large following. Her account caught the attention of a brand prior to New York Fashion Week, and before she knew it, PrettyLittleThing offered her a spot in their show. Even without experience modelling, Mya took the opportunity and began to plan her trip to New York. "It was like rolling into a world that I'd never truly imagined myself," Mya told POPSUGAR.
"It was like rolling into a world that I'd never truly imagined myself."
With short notice before the show, Mya had a limited amount of time to figure out how she would get there. "Accessible travel is currently very hard to come by and to be done correctly requires ample planning in advance," she said. For starters, her wheelchair was too big to go on a coach bus lift, so that option was out. Then, due to a series of health reasons, Mya couldn't fly (and not to mention that according to her, on average, 29 wheelchairs are lost or damaged daily by airlines). And lastly, the Amtrak train requires a 72-hour notice when booking accessible travel, which didn't give her enough time to get there before the show. The only other option was for Mya to find a private van service and driver to transport her (which she did, but that service came with its own bout of inaccessibility issues).
After (finally) making it to New York City, Fashion Week was in full swing. "I think my favourite part of the overall experience was just being exposed to new things in a world that was completely foreign to me," Mya said. Being backstage, seeing the production setup, and talking with models, hairstylists, and fashion experts gave her an inside look at the industry and everything that goes into it. While Mya was able to experience behind-the-scenes aspects of the show, PLT had to give her a separate dressing and styling room from the rest of the model's hair and makeup room because there wasn't enough space. "I was okay with this as it was cool to have my own space, but I was a little disappointed to learn that I had missed a whole group/hype talk from Teyana Taylor while I was in a separate room," she said. "I'm certain others missed it as well, it was just a bit unfortunate that I had to be separated from everyone else in that way."
"My hope is that in showing people that we can be, and enjoy being included in all aspects of life, (like high fashion, or extreme sports, or whatever it is that a disabled person might be interested in) the world will be more ready and willing to include us."
Regardless, Mya rolled down the runway in style. After being part of Fashion Week, the "wheelie lady" can now add "runway model" to her TikTok bio. While she enjoyed her experience and was able to see a whole new world first-hand, there is still work to be done. "Something big I want people to take away is the importance of having all types of disabled people on the runway," she said. "I received a lot of comments and messages from disabled people saying things like they didn't know that could happen, or they never thought they could be a model because 'disabled people don't model' — that idea only exists because we don't see disabled models. The more people see us, the more they will know and understand that modelling is for everyone, including disabled people." Making everything from Fashion Week events to travel and even cities more accessible will offer disabled people opportunities that they might not have been able to take otherwise. Being an ally to the disabled community can come in an array of different forms from looking out for inaccessible ramps and restaurants to advocating for their rights in all levels of society. "My hope is that in showing people that we can be, and enjoy being included in all aspects of life, (like high fashion, or extreme sports, or whatever it is that a disabled person might be interested in) the world will be more ready and willing to include us."