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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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Showing 76 comments

desert girl on

you are defined as a quadriplegic or paraplegic by where your injury is located on your spinal cord. many quads have limited use of their arms, as seen in this video. she has done an incredible amount of rehab to make her movements look as “easy” as they do!

Lolo on

What an inspiring story!! Nordstrom has a new lifelong customer in me! I wish Angela the very best!! She is a true beauty who has overcome soooo many obstacles and has proven to the world that you can achieve anything as long as you have the will and the heart to push on! I am in awe of her and of Nordstrom to see past the limitations and see all the possibilities this woman has. I wish her well…good health, good fortune, and much love in her life! You go girl!!!

thehappyhoney on

This is awesome! Congratulations Ms. Rockwood. :) And kudo’s to my favorite store, Nordstroms, for shattering stereotypes and promoting diversity.

emg on

she shouldn’t be a quadriplegic or anything before…..it’s called person first language….it’s a person first, then her disabilty…a woman whom happens to be Quadriplegic, beat the odds.

Elly on

Not only are disabled people still consumers, they are still fully human, with aspirations, individuality and the potential for significant accomplishment. Great statement, Angela!

theSeed on

The best part about this article is that it’s about Angela, the model, the person. NOT about Nordstrom’s!

tillie on

Beautuful lady.Good for you honey.

elley on

It sure is.nice to.see no negAtive.comments. I have always loved.Nordstrom. you are making someone’s dreams come.true…

neuroPT on

Ok, y’all. As many have said, quadriplegia refers to the number of limbs involved, hence the “quad” designation. Incomplete is referring to the “asia” scale e.g. does the person have any movement OR sensation below the level of the injury (you can be incomplete with sensation and no movement, btw…).

Ok, technical issues aside, glad People wrote this article. However, please, unless someone is duct taped or otherwise tied into a chair, I wouldn’t call them bound to anything! Wheelchair user, please…

McG on

Best. Story. Ever. Wow…truly awesome! Nordstrom, I have grown up shopping with you as a native of Seattle, and you have really taken a progressive stance here. Your financial success is assured, but your statement in using the incredible and beautiful Angela Rockwood in your campaign will inspire untold numbers of people, whether disabled or not! Something money truly can’t buy. Best wishes Angela!!

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