At JoJo, we recognise and value the fact that everyone is different, and that's what makes the world interesting. From our teams to our models, we always welcome everyone, regardless of disability, race, religion, sexuality or anything else that makes one person different from the next. Our ethos of embracing what makes us different goes beyond head office and our stores. Each season, we invite children to model for our catalogue and will consider any child. All we look for is adorable little ones who love the camera!
This season, Sophia was invited to model for our catalogue. Sophia has a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy - a genetic neuromuscular disorder that makes the muscles weaker and causes problems with movement. Due to this, Sophia struggles to walk, so we happily included her Wizzybug wheelchair on set, which resulted in a photoshoot to remember - lots of fun and lots of gorgeous photos for our catalogue and Sophia's parents. Today, Sophia's mum chats to us on the blog about their experiences with the Wizzybug and life in general with Sophia.
1. When and why did you decide to seek help from Designability?
When Sophia was younger we had seen a few families in the Spinal Muscular Atrophy (the disability that Sophia is living with) community with Wizzybugs so we were really keen to get one for Sophia to promote her independence.
2. How did you feel the first time you saw Sophia in her Wizzybug?
To be honest the first few times in the Wizzybug were pretty anti-climactic! Sophia didn't really understand what was going on and was more interested in going backwards and crashing into things. We took her to our local forest so she had plenty of space and that was a pretty heart stopping moment, she seemed to suddenly grasp what was going on and was looking at leaves on the ground and investigating the trees and wildlife. I will admit to a moment sobbing when she took herself off the path to investigate something and all you could see was her little head over the top of the Wizzybug - that moment will stay with me forever.
3. How has the Wizzybug changed yours and Sophia’s lives?
Beyond comprehension! Sophia would have had no independence at all for quite a while (NHS wheelchair services have just looked into her getting a wheelchair aged 4+).
4. Do you use it daily?
Yes, whenever we can. Sophia has danced in Wizzy, surfed puddles, competed in Teddy Olympics and will be starting school in Wizzy.
5. If you could offer other families going through what you have been through one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just keep going - thankfully there is now a treatment for all types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy so no family will have to go through the absolute horror we have.
6. How did Sophia come to be a JoJo model?
We are signed to Zebedee agency and an advert came out over social media so we put Sophia forward - we honestly were not expecting her to get chosen. It takes a certain amount of courage from brands to see past the Wizzybug and thankfully JoJo did just that!
7. Did Sophia enjoy the day on the photoshoot? What was her favourite part?
Absolutely, the outdoor shoot was in a lovely location which was completely accessible. When Sophia wasn't being photographed she was wizzing up and down the promenade collecting treasure (stones!) which she was giving to the photographer Lee - I'm surprised he could walk by the end of the day being so weighed down!
At one point the team had Sophia and another model on a scooter having their pictures taken and someone suggested Sophia pulling this little boy along. To see these two giggling faces having so much fun was just fantastic.
8. Why do you think it’s so important for brands to show a range of models?
To be totally honest, before Sophia it would never have crossed my mind that all brands should be using all types of models. Now I hope that by seeing all sorts of disabilities including wheelchairs, amputations etc. it just becomes normal. That you can be successful without the need to fit into the ‘able’ category. Sophia is so many wonderful things and Wizzy is a device that lets her be the best she can be, but she’s still a 4 year old girl who just wants to see people who are like her.
9. What is your biggest hope for Sophia’s future?
It’s the same for any parent: I hope she's happy and healthy and surrounded by love. But I also hope in her lifetime we see a shift in perception around disabilities, that she is never seen as a burden but a valuable part of any community - who may need a little extra assistance or some adaptations to help her achieve her potential. We always say that Sophia's disability is the least interesting part of her - she's funny, kind, mischievous and can be a complete pain in the bum but we wouldn't have her any other way!
We'd really like to say a massive thank you to Designability for all the work they do and especially for Wizzybug, making a powered wheelchair free of charge for families already at breaking point is just amazing and they are always a pleasure to speak with. Wizzy has become another member of our family and we wouldn't be where we are right now without it.