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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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Sharon on

Congrats to Angela! It’s about time! People with disabilities are working in every facet of the working world and as someone with a physical disability… I say there goes yet another barrier!! One thing about the article I have to say is people who use wheelchairs are not “bound” to them. Wheelchairs are tools that allow us to live a relatively normal life.

Disability Service Provider on

WHEELCHAIR BOUND? LEFT IN A WHEELCHAIR? Is this the stone ages? This language is horribly out of date and politically incorrect. These wonderful women use wheelchairs. Do not use their disabilities to define them. They are people first. I expected better from People magazine period

darlene smith on

The thing I noticed about Angela was not her disability, but her beautiful smile, and sweet personality. I also noticed the young man in the background, looking on as she was being photographed. You can tell from the look on his face that he liked what he saw. Go Angela!

Mzamo on

I saw this video too and it did make a waterfall out of my eyes. Haha!I agree with Herbert. My mom paessd away 11 years ago and left my dad with 4 young girls aged 8-11. He wasn’t ready but he took care of all of us. No help from any relatives, no aunts or the like. Looking back, I still cannot imagine how he did it. How he kept the family together and even more closer when our mother was still around. He eventually remarried 7 years later but we’re still under 1 roof with the new kids and my stepmom =)

Raquel on

wantingWhats up this is kinda of off topic but I was to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to mlaaulny code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding expertise so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!

Anuj on

There is no downside to high exacitpteons, and no upside to low ones. The only downside I’ve ever experienced with high exacitpteons is coming up short. But, it always leads to trying harder and better success next time. Great post!

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