Article by: Olha Lohinova
Oleksandra Kutas arrived in New York alone. Her wheelchair was damaged during the flight, but the company bought her a new one. Then she had to cope with the long drive to New Jersey, daily trips to New York, snow storms and rain, job offers and rejections, radio interviews and new acquaintances.
Oleksandra is the first Ukrainian model with disabilities. She was only sixteen, a beautiful young girl sitting in a cafe, when she was spotted by a photographer.
Last year, photos of Oleksandra Kutas were exhibited at the Ukrainian Fashion Week in Kyiv.
Ukrainian photographer Andriy Sarymsakov brought public attention to people with disabilities and initiated a photo project “Break Your Chains”.
“I want Ukrainians to see that it’s possible to be successful and happy even for people like Oleksandra. The most important is moral courage and social support.”
Oleksandra and Andriy plan to present the “Break Your Chains” project abroad as the first and the only in Ukraine photo exhibit with a model in wheelchair.
Oleksandra has also dreamed of walking down the catwalks at New York Fashion Week. She recently visited NYC for the third time, but this time the city was not kind to her – bad weather, traffic jams, unsuccessful negotiations and bad scheduling.
Oleksandra had a few photo shoots, one of them with the NYC-based people photographer Mike Dote. Like Oleksandra, Mike is an exception to the rule; he has schizophrenia, which does not prevent him from working, achieving awards and recognition, enjoying family life (his wife, Ta Ming Chen, is a make-up artist) and fencing (Mike used to be a fencing coach).
After the photo shoot, Oleksandra returned to her hometown – Dnipropetrovsk. This year promises to be exciting: in addition to her career as a model, she is working on a project to equip the city with wheelchair ramps and developing a travel show with the participation of disabled persons. She also works as a volunteer in Ukrainian hospitals, visiting and tending wounded soldiers.
“Break Your Chains” fashion photos courtesy of Andriy Sarymsakov/Caters News