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Belfast model Bernadette Hagans: 'I love showing that I may have a robot foot but I can still look good'

Young NI woman's joy at inspiring others

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Twelve months on from a shattering cancer diagnosis which led to her losing her leg, the 23 year old is enjoying a new career as a model and has emerged as a champion for cancer charities as well as an inspirational role model for people with disability.

Twelve months on from a shattering cancer diagnosis which led to her losing her leg, the 23 year old is enjoying a new career as a model and has emerged as a champion for cancer charities as well as an inspirational role model for people with disability.

Twelve months on from a shattering cancer diagnosis which led to her losing her leg, the 23 year old is enjoying a new career as a model and has emerged as a champion for cancer charities as well as an inspirational role model for people with disability.

A model who lost her leg to cancer and who was recently hired by global footwear brand Kurt Geiger says she is determined to use her rising profile to help others.

Charity ambassador Bernadette Hagans suffered the trauma of losing her right leg after being diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and had to learn to walk again using a prosthetic.

Then working as a clerk at Sean Graham bookies in Andersonstown, she was told she had synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer which develops in cells around joints and tendons. To save her life, surgeons had to have her right leg amputated through the knee.

Since then the west Belfast woman's career as a model has taken off and last month she was part of Kurt Geiger's People Empowered campaign.

Bernadette says she wants to use her platform to help other people living with prosthetics.

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Belfast model Bernadette Hagans

Belfast model Bernadette Hagans

Belfast model Bernadette Hagans

The 24-year-old told Sunday Life: "I get so many messages from people saying that my posts on social media really help them and I love to be a part of that.

"I love being able to show that I have a robot foot but I can still wear these kinds of shoes and still look good. I hope other people would feel like if they have a prosthetic leg they could do it too.

"It means so much to me. I've had people reach out and tell me how much I'm doing for people with prosthetics so I just feel so lucky and happy Kurt Geiger are willing to partner with someone like me. It's really important to me to use my platform for empowerment, before all this happened with my leg I never really used social media at all.

"After I started posting about my leg I had so many people contact me and say how much it helped them in terms of visibility. I love that me just posting a photo is able to help someone in some way or make someone's day.

"I'd love to continue to use my career and platform to continue that, I have so much fun with it, people get excited about the different colours of my leg and everything that I'm wearing, I love it.

"I work with a couple of charities already, I'm a CLIC Sargent Young Lives Vs Cancer ambassador and I also work with The Boom Foundation which is Northern Ireland's only Sarcoma charity. I'm closely involved with the Cancer Fund for Children as well.

"Going forward with my career, charity work is something which will definitely be important to me, especially with coronavirus so many charities are taking a huge hit and I think this is very much the time for people to be getting involved and trying to help.

"So I want to just try and use whatever platform I have to try and help and encourage others to get involved.

"I love being involved with the charities, I have so much fun and find it so fulfilling. I get enjoyment out of it and people are being helped so it's a win-win situation."

Bernadette unveiled her partnership with Kurt Geiger last month on her Instagram account which has over 10,000 followers. The People Empowered campaign will feature 15 activists and organisation leaders. Annie and Agnes of Black Minds Matter, Emma Picton Jones, Andy Hider MBE, Danielle Sams, Jeremiah Emmanuel, and Kyle Stanger of Boys Get Sad Too will also share their stories and feature in the campaign.

Excited

Now under a modelling contract with Zebedee Management, a specialist talent agency representing individuals with disabilities and alternative appearances, she did the shoot from her home via FaceTime at her home.

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Bernadette Hagans - Launching the new Kurt Geiger campaign - PEOPLE EMPOWERED

Bernadette Hagans - Launching the new Kurt Geiger campaign - PEOPLE EMPOWERED

Bernadette Hagans - Launching the new Kurt Geiger campaign - PEOPLE EMPOWERED

Products she models range from a neon pink quilted bag to platform trainers, while wearing a black hoodie. She added: "Kurt Geiger actually messaged me on Instagram and basically told me what they were planning with the campaign and everything.

"They said they really wanted people who would inspire or empower people and asked if I'd be happy to get involved so we spoke about it and I knew straight away it was something that I would want to be a part of. So we figured it out and got shooting.

"I think they had seen me on social media and just decided they wanted me as part of the campaign.

"I was so excited because obviously I was aware of the Kurt Geiger brand and whenever they started the campaign it sounded amazing.

"I love that they were trying to show normal people like me and get them involved in the campaign so yeah I was very happy and very excited."

Bernadette is also getting used to being recognised more thanks to her growing profile.

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Bernadette Hagans from Belfast.

Bernadette Hagans from Belfast.

Bernadette Hagans from Belfast.

"I always get surprised whenever I'm offered things, I'm so lucky and I'm just so glad that brands and so on are so much more accepting about people with differences and disabilities. I was so happy when they reached out," she added.

"I have had some people recognise me especially lately after the Kurt Geiger announcement, it's been amazing.

"It's so funny when I'm out, people come up to me and say they recognise me from Tik Tok and Instagram and stuff like that but I think it's my leg that gives me away because there's not many people like me in Belfast.

"I'm just the girl with the colourful leg, so people are bound to recognise me I suppose."

Sunday Life