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October 21, 2021

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Unique beauty strides the catwalk

A MODEL with a prosthetic leg drew a lot of attention at the recent Shanghai Fashion Week 2021. Niu Yu, better known as Chunyougege (Spring Outing Brother), dazzled many in the audience with her confident catwalk.

Niu, born in 1997, is a full-time vlogger and photographer. Sometimes she models for clothing brands. When the Shanghai Fashion Week reached out to her, she felt nervous and flattered.

“I know that there’s a huge gap between me and the professional models. I have to wear comfortable shoes such as trainers because of my prosthetic leg. The runway would just take me one minute to walk, but what is hard for me to overcome is the psychological problems.

“It took me a really long time to muster enough confidence to get on the runway. It counts as a big breakthrough for me,” Niu said.

When preparing for her turn to walk, she’s all sweaty and nervous. One friend read her a message left by a 13-year-old girl, a long-time follower of her Douyin account, saying she also lost her right leg but she has always dreamed of walking on the runway just like all the other physically challenged models she sees on TV: Imperfect but beautiful.

Niu was pumped up by the message. “Just standing on the runway breaks certain stereotypes about the physically challenged. After I uploaded my experience at Fashion Week, I got really positive feedback from my followers. They think I’m great.” Niu said.

“Once a sportswear brand found me and wished to hire me as their model. One staff member told me it seemed a prosthetic leg and sports could not be linked together, but it can’t stop you from striving upwards and embodying the spirit of sports. His words really lifted me up.”

Niu lost her right leg in the Wenchuan Earthquake, which killed almost 70,000 people in 2008 when she was 11.

The earthquake happened while she was in class. She was buried for three days. She still has to constantly remind herself to not let the fact that she’s wearing a prosthetic leg get to her.

On May 12, 2018, the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, Niu participated in a marathon. In the last few kilometers, Niu couldn’t run any longer and couldn’t feel her leg, someone in the audience shouted “Go China! Go Wenchuan!”

The message gave Niu strength to run the last few kilometers. She was once a team member of field track in elementary school, but that was more than a decade ago.

Niu hadn’t run even once after the amputation.

“Finishing the marathon is like overcoming a big challenge in my life. I think it’s time to move on and find other challenges,” she said.

Niu set up a Douyin account to share her life’s story and what it feels like to live as an amputee. She has over 850,000 followers.

“I have been surrounded by love ever since the accident. If it’s not for the rescuers, I wouldn’t be alive today. As of 2020, there are over 85 million physically challenged people in China but you can hardly see any in the streets. I want to do something for this group, so I started my Douyin account.”


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