Link Magazine February-March 2024

Page 20

Link to...Interview

Letting the runway do the TALKING By Danielle Kutchel

Modelling wasn’t always the plan for James Parr, but after losing a leg to cancer, he’s charted a new course in disability advocacy and visibility.


ames Parr is hitting his stride. It’s been a whirlwind few years for the 27-year-old, who changed careers during the pandemic and now spends his days walking the runway at some of fashion’s biggest events for household names like Tommy Hilfiger and Myer.

“I was like, ‘whatever, I’m not doing anything else, I’ll just go and do it’,” he said. One job led to another, and by the end of the year, James had signed with an agency and was walking the runway for the first time at Melbourne Fashion Week.

And with every step, he aims to move the world towards a more positive vision of disability.

“Once I got on the runway, that’s when it all started to take off and I just became busier and busier,” he said.

The model, disability advocate, triathlete and writer is making it his mission to promote inclusion through his work both on the runway and behind the scenes, using his lived experience of disability to champion a more realistic portrayal of disability.

Changing the narrative James said he’s been fortunate not have any bad experiences in modelling. “I think I’ve been very lucky throughout my whole career. The industry wants to have more inclusion, more diversity, more representation,” he said.

Modelling wasn’t always on the cards for James, who admits he was “lost” after leaving high school, but it seems supporting the disability community has long been in his blood. He took up a traineeship at a specialist school in the Victorian country town of Cobram, keen to work with and help kids, then moved to a mainstream primary school to continue that work.

But he acknowledged that there is a stigma in the community around having a disability.

Rather than view this as an ending, he saw it as a new opportunity. “At the exact same time, I had been working with special education in schools for eight years and I loved what I did, but I also felt very stuck and felt like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing or wasn’t [reaching] my full potential,” he told Link.


February/March 2024



But life had other plans, and in 2019 he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. James’ lower right leg was amputated, and he now uses a prosthetic. es m Ja

His entry into modelling was “so random”. It was in 2020, not long after Easter and he had finished his chemotherapy. A friend whose family owned a clothing shop in Cobram asked him to be part of some photo shoots for the shop’s website and social media.

“I never cared about having my leg amputated or… acquiring a disability. It’s just the perception of people after the disability, and the way people talk about disability and the whole narrative. People just view it as something so sad and so horrible… sort of devalued. I was constantly hearing people tell me they felt sorry for me, or they felt sad for me, and it just really annoyed me because it was like, there’s nothing sad or sorry about my life,” he said. He realised that those negative perceptions stemmed from a lack of representation of disability in the media and felt that he could try and use his experience to help change the narrative.

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