Quadriplegic Beats the Odds — and Lands Major Modeling Campaign

08/24/2012 at 03:00 PM ET

Push Girls Diane Bondareff for Sundance

You often hear that tenacity and perseverance are musts for any model who wants to succeed in the industry. Well, Angela Rockwood has those in spades.

After breaking into the business, she was in a horrific car accident that left her in a wheelchair. But instead of giving up, Rockwood decided that her injuries (which stripped her of the use of her legs and left her with extremely limited use of her arms) shouldn’t stop her from doing what she loves. And 11 years after that life-changing accident, she has achieved something she dreamed about, but never thought would really happen: Rockwood is modeling again, in a national campaign for Nordstrom.

Rockwood is one of the stars of Push Girls, a Sundance Channel series about the lives of four women bound to wheelchairs — and her story of breaking back into the business has been one of the most inspiring of the season.

“After my accident, the thought of modeling didn’t even cross my mind,” the 37-year-old, who identifies as quadriplegic, tells PEOPLE. “But what did occur to me was that I had been transported to the realm of the paralyzed for a reason. I realized I had a huge choice to make: to go down the positive path, be an example for others in similar positions and be a voice.”

To have her voice heard, Rockwood wanted to do something she knew how to do: model. “There weren’t many models in chairs to make a statement like, ‘Hey we are the consumers too!’ and ‘Who doesn’t want to look sexy or fashionable sitting in a wheelchair?'” she explains.

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who felt that way; Nordstrom had been looking for models with disabilities to be featured in an upcoming campaign. So Rockwood submitted her photos to a casting agency. “The rest was history,” she adds, happily.

Though she’s working under different circumstances than she did prior to the accident, nothing else has changed much, in her opinion. “When I was on set for Nordstrom, I felt like I was at ‘home’ again,” Rockwood says. “It was like throwing a fighter back in the ring to win their belt after a major setback from a recovering injury.”

To see Rockwood’s Nordstrom campaign shoot, watch the season finale of Push Girls, airing Monday, Aug. 27 at 10 p.m. ET on the Sundance Channel. And get an exclusive sneak peek below!

–Jennifer Cress

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danamarieot on

The term “quadriplegia” refers to the level of spinal cord injury. If the spinal cord is injured at the cervical (neck) level, it is considered quadriplegia, because it affects motor and sensory function of the arms in addition to the rest of the body. Paraplegia does not affect the arms at all. As an occupational therapist, I am always so happy to see articles like this!

Pam on

This is a very inspiring show for anyone to see, I am glad that Ang finally got a modeling job. FYI she is a quad as she has a cerival level injury. Depending on the level of injury and damage to the cord will depend on how much movement and sensation she has in her upper extremities. Just because she has some movement in her arms does not make her a paraplegic like the other girls on the show.

nai on

I love this show and I love Angela! Congratulations!
Nordstrom is my favorite place to shop for clothes and shoes. I am very impressed that they use models from all walks of life.
BTW, for those who have not seen the show, Angela does not have full use of her hands and I think that is why she is considered a quadriplegic.

Lorrie on

If we’re going to get technical (and it sounds like we need to), she’s actually classified as an “incomplete quadriplegic.” Four limb affected. Sarahv229 is absolutely right. The paralysis does not have to be complete to be termed quadriplegic.

Niki on

Thanks for clearing that up Lorrie!! I was just about to post a similar comment! :)

Rhonda on

This is one of my favorite shows on television, each one of the women on the show is inspiring. They all seem to be the eternal optimist, which is refreshing being as though I am certain their daily struggles pale in comparison to the challenges many of us face. I am so happy to see that Ang’s dream of getting back into the modeling world are coming true, YOU ROCK!!

Mel on

She’s 37?!! I would have guessed she was in her late 20s. Up close, she looks a little older, but for most of the video I thought she was in her 20s. She’s stunning. Good for her and good for Nordstrom!

Meme on

Angela, you are such an inspiration! You go girl!

Me on

Nice writing People. She’s a model who is a quadriplegic. Put the person first!

Shenae on

That is really cool!

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