Belfast Telegraph

In demand as a model for top fashion brands, the NI woman who lost one of her legs to cancer

Model Bernadette Hagans in Primark’s new campaign
Model Bernadette Hagans in Primark’s new campaign
Bernadette Hagans at home in west Belfast

By Stephanie Bell

A young west Belfast woman who had her leg amputated last year is making her mark in the international modelling world.

Stunning 22-year-old Bernadette Hagans has become a high fashion model for leading clothes brands since being offered a modelling contract in February.

And recently she flew to England to work on a global fashion shoot for High Street fashion giant Primark.

Tomorrow she will be striking a pose for local company Self Made Belfast, modelling its latest range in another photo session.

"It's just amazing. I am doing things I never thought I would be able to do, like being on TV and radio and working with top fashion brands," she said.

"I am having so much fun and I am just going with it and enjoying it and will see what else comes up."

Bernadette's life has changed dramatically since she came through the trauma of losing her leg last October after being diagnosed with a rare cancer.

She had to learn to walk again using a prosthetic limb but took it all in her stride to emerge just months later as a positive role model, embracing her life as an amputee.

Out of the blue in February, the former clerk in a bookies shop was offered a contract with London-based Zebedee Management.

The agency specialises in working with models with disabilities.

She said at the time: "After my amputation, it felt amazing to be signed with Zebedee.

"I love everything that they stand for; they're giving people a chance, no matter what makes them different.

"Being different doesn't make you wrong, it makes you more unique. I love that I'm being given the chance to work with some incredible people that are creating a change in the industry."

Due to confidentiality clauses Bernadette can't disclose details of the campaigns she has taken part in until they are released, however, she has been kept busy flying back and forward to England and also working in Dublin.

"My contract doesn't allow me to discuss details but I've had some amazing jobs with top fashion brands and I have quite a few things lined up," she explained.

"The Primark shoot was just incredible. It was for their new Toy Story range and I was one of three adult models, and there were some children as well.

"It was held in Exeter and the range is due to be launched on June 21 when the pictures will be used in store and on their website and in advertising.

"Everyone was just amazing and knew what they wanted and it was so much fun it didn't feel like I was working. "

Bernadette had just moved home to a top floor apartment in 2017 when she noticed a pain in her leg.

After numerous visits to hospital she was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour last August.

From the moment she was told, she has remained positive.

"I think I had known for ages that it was cancer and I didn't see the point in falling apart because I knew there were babies with cancer and I'd had 22 good years," she recalled.

"I was told it was a really rare and aggressive form and usually they would just take it out, but because it was attached to my nerves and vessels they told me I would have to have my leg amputated or I would die.

"I wasn't shocked and I was actually joking with the staff. They were worried I hadn't taken it in and kept me behind to try and make me understand and wanted me to ring my parents.

"Honestly, I really didn't see the point in panicking."

Her parents Martin Hagans and Theresa Clarke were naturally devastated and terrified for their child.

When her modelling contract came through it was her mum who urged a rather shy Bernadette to take the opportunity and she hasn't looked back since.

"It is a bit surreal what has happened to me in the last year and my family and friends are just really proud and excited for me," said Bernadette. "I'm looking forward to working with Self Made Belfast tomorrow, as they are a really cool local brand."

You can follow Bernadette's incredible journey on her instagram at @bernadettehagans

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