Karen Crespo is pooped, and understandably so. She had quite a big morning shattering the modeling world’s glass ceiling as she proudly strutted her stuff down the runway at New York Fashion Week.
Crespo is a quadruple amputee who uses prosthetic legs, the first to ever appear in one of New York Fashion Week’s prestigious shows.
“I had so much fun,” she told ABC News. “I’m happy that it’s over, and I’m pooped. But I’m ready to see the next step.”
The West Covina, California, woman, 31, had never even visited New York City before this week. She has had a tortuous two-and-a-half years dealing with the loss of all four limbs because of a severe form of bacterial meningitis and, until February, when she came across another disabled woman’s inspiring tale of conquering the runway, she never dreamed that was a goal she, too, could actually accomplish.
“I saw Danielle Sheypuk last year in the wheelchair and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have to email Carrie Hammer and let her know how I feel,’” Crespo explained of her inspiration for writing to Hammer, a women’s fashion designer who specializes in custom, professional wear. “I thought, ‘This is amazing how someone would break the boundaries and let someone in a wheelchair be in New York Fashion Week.’”
But Crespo wasn’t the only one inspired. Hammer says the second she received Crespo’s email, she was so flattered by her kind words that she knew she wanted to work with her.
“She sent me the most lovely, touching and down-to-earth email that made me sob,” Hammer said. “It was just the most incredible email. I wrote her back immediately and said, ‘Oh my God, I would love to chat with you and would love to have you walk in our next show.’”
Not only that, Hammer arranged to have new prosthetic arms special-made just for Crespo after learning of a devastating blow she endured in November 2013. Nearly $100,000 worth of prosthetics were stolen right off Crespo’s front porch after they had been delivered.
“She got the new arms last week,” Hammer said. “That was a total surprise. I told her she had to accessorize!”
With her new limbs and modeling opportunity of a lifetime, a whole new confidence came about in Crespo that she’d never felt before.
“It was a surreal moment,” she recalled. “There was so much in this for me, especially for my confidence. It helped me with having a positive outlook on life. I feel like now I’d be able to go outside and walk with confidence. Before I’d just want to stay home and not have anyone see me. It’s affected me in a positive way and inspired me to help other people in a similar situation.
“For anyone who’s ever had any self-doubt within themselves, they can see me and feel inspired and empowered to do anything they set their minds to.”
And as for the designer who helped instill this confidence in her, she couldn’t be more proud.
“Karen killed it today,” Hammer said. “She dominated. I knew she would, but she got on the runway and I just started sobbing.”