Mariam’s Q & A: Opening my world


Mariam on our Back Up to Work course in Manchester

Our Front Row event has raised over £150,000 since it started 5 years ago. The evening includes a showcase of amazing new designs with all proceeds going directly towards our work supporting people affected by spinal cord injury. We recently spoke to Mariam about volunteering as a model at the event and what she took away from the experience.

What inspired you to get involved in Front Row as a model?

I saw it as an opportunity to build up my confidence. Ever since my injury in 2014, when asked to do anything, my default answer was simply no. Even though I had some modelling experience, I still wasn’t sure if I was ready to put myself out there in such a public fashion.

My self-esteem took a huge plunge in different areas after my injury. The whole idea was scary because everything had changed – using a wheelchair in public made me anxious, and being around more than four or five people at a time got my heart racing and my palms sweaty.

I also found out even the way I dressed had to change. I could only wear elasticated trousers because the buttoned ones left a massive tightening feeling around my poor tummy due to prolonged seating. For someone who has always loved looking her best, this took a toll on my self-confidence.

With the Front Row event though, I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone and do something interesting, exciting and a bit scary – especially because it was raising funds for Back Up.

How did you find the experience? What were the challenges/highlights?

While I was waiting to be called out on the runway, I remember thinking what if I lose control of my wheelchair and it plunges into the seated guests or even the camera recording the show, but nothing like that happened – thankfully! When we were called out, everything went brilliantly and much better than expected. I still cannot shake off that feeling of elation that I had on the runway, everyone clapping while we wheeled past them. I am glad I participated. I still feed off that elated feeling any time I find my mood a bit down, I think it’s good to have a few of those moments in the bank.

Mariam modelling at the Front Row event

Mariam modelling at the Front Row event

How did the experience affect your confidence?

I think my self-esteem enjoyed a real boost after the experience. I didn’t see myself as the one looking for help, I gained confidence in my abilities and saw that I was capable of a lot more. That felt great.

Did it have an impact on any other areas of your life?

With my new and improved outlook, I felt so much better about life as a whole. I think it’s also helped me see it from a different perspective, that nothing is impossible but just slightly different now. I can get anything done, maybe slower than I would previously have done, but with perseverance I can – and will – get there.

When I finally decided to start saying yes, I opened my small world up to Back Up and since then I’ve been on such an exciting journey of new opportunities.

I’ve been on the Back Up to Work and Next Steps courses –  both of which had a big impact on my life. I can now see a future for myself which I couldn’t beforehand. I’ve made lifelong friends that are dependable, reliable and most importantly understand what I am going through because they have been there themselves.

What are you up to at the moment?

At the moment, I volunteer twice a week which has brought stability and focus to my life. I have found the world is bigger than the four walls of my house, and being a part of something bigger than me gives my life purpose and a whole new meaning. Thanks Back Up for helping me get there.

If you’d like to attend or volunteer at our Front Row event, March 8 2018, please email our Events Manager, Emma, or call her on 020 8875 1805.