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

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , Fashion , Models , TV & Movies

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Showing 76 comments

C Dub on

Beautiful story… beautiful young woman…

Sandra on

wow! she looks beautiful!!!

Star on

I love this story and I love the fact that Nordstrom is doing this! I wish other companies would see that beauty doesn’t mean a size 0 6’5 model. Job well done Nordstrom…Job well done!

Laura on

@cherfer, she may be classified as an “incomplete quadriplegic” since she thankfully still has some ability in her arms. My mom was rendered an “incomplete quadriplegic” after a car accident 11 years ago, but she still has limited mobility with her right arm and leg.
I can’t wait to share this inspiring story with my mom!

Jenny on

She is stunningly gorgeous.

Erica on

The term “bound to wheelchairs” as used in the story is something that those of us in the disability rights community cringe at hearing. That terminology portrays an image of a helpless person, and Ms. Rockwood is anything but. She is a chair user, but she is not “bound” or “confined.” Her chair is a tool for independence. She would be “bound” without it!

jj on

Awesome! Love hearing inspiring, happy news like this. Way to go, girl!

Kira on

The only reason why I am familiar with this model is because of the car accident that claimed Thuy Trang (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Trini Kwan).

HOWEVER, I am incredibly proud to see that Nordstrom is having her model. She is beautiful, and she is such an inspiration! Here is to hoping that other companies do the same thing – models shouldn’t just be thin and tall. It should be all kinds of people.

Juli on

So impressed with Nordstom right now. Angela was clearly born for this. Beautiful.

CABL on

Wow, what a great story, congrats to Angela and thank you to Nordstrom for branching out!

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