You need to know Rebekah Marine. She's a model, inspirational speaker, and humanitarian, and I met her in March this year during Dove's 60th anniversary. As part of its birthday celebration, the beauty brand converted the bedrooms of a gorgeous brownstone Manhattan townhouse into cozy nooks where women from all walks of life shared how they overcame one word: NO. Rebekah was in the first room we visited, and I wasn't immediately aware of her "lucky fin" until she told us that we shouldn't be alarmed if we hear a whirring sound.
That's when I saw it. She has a robotic arm.
Did you see it? Here's a closer look:
Rebekah was born without a right forearm—a disability that caused insecurities growing up. In childhood photos, for instance, you'd see her posing her arm strategically to hide her missing limb.
Her chosen career didn't make it easier; it took multiple rejections before she bagged a modeling job. But look at her now: Walking New York Fashion Week, appearing in major brand catalogs like Nordstrom, and getting featured in publications like Time and Teen Vogue. Cosmo.ph got in touch with her for an exclusive Q&A so Pinays can be inspired never to take no for an answer.
Cosmo.ph: How did you go from hiding your right arm in childhood photos, to finally getting the courage to flaunt it for all to see? Could you share that first small (but important) step you took?
Rebekah: It wasn't easy finding the courage to essentially "flaunt" something that I was insecure about for a large portion of my life. It all started when I received my first myoelectric prosthesis in my early 20s. (Editors' Note: A prosthesis is an artificial device used to replace a missing body part; myoelectric means it uses a battery or electronic motor to function.) When I started wearing it out in public, I got asked a lot of questions about the bionic arm, how I was born, etc. It eventually became easier to talk about, something I didn't like doing much as a teenager. That's the moment I started to become more confident in myself. Now, I love talking about my "lucky fin" and the challenges I've faced over the years.
Editors' Note: Rebekah is also an ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project, a nonprofit organization that supports those with upper limb differences.
Rebekah: I remember being so excited about getting the Touch Bionic prosthetic hand. I also remember the moment insurance denied me of getting one, stating "not a medical necessity" as their reason. What most people don't know is that Touch Bionics has a department solely dedicated to fighting insurance. They worked with me for over a year to write appeal letters in hopes the insurance company would reverse their decision. Unfortunately, we hit a dead end, but Touch Bionics stepped in and offered me a position as an ambassador, and the hand was donated to me. It's a dream, really, and I'm so grateful to have that title.
Cosmo.ph: What was the meanest thing said to you in your modeling career (If you don’t mind sharing!), and how did you rise above it?
Rebekah: Having a social media presence, I see a lot of the comments people make about me. I try not to read too many comments. They can be harsh sometimes. People forget that I'm a real person, with real feelings.
The one comment I'll never forget was when someone wrote: "She would be so much hotter if she had both arms."
That stung for awhile, but it's important for me to realize that there are so many more positive, loving people who support me and root for me. I think that outweighs a lot of the negative things I see online. If I had the choice to go back and be born again with two arms, I wouldn't do it. I love the way I was born. It took a while to achieve that mindset, and it wasn't easy, but embracing my differences has been the biggest (and happiest) turning point in my life.
Cosmo.ph: What would be your message to those who might not have the same drive, resources, or access to technology but live with a disability?
Rebekah: Over the years, I have received thousands of emails from those who are emotionally struggling or having difficulty receiving the medical care or the equipment they need. It hurts when I read those emails, because I've been there, too. I consider myself very lucky, and I don't take what I've been given from Touch Bionics for granted. Throughout the process of fighting insurance, I've learned that patience is key. I've learned that not everything will always go my way. Most importantly, I've learned that reaching out to people for help isn't a bad thing. If I never personally wrote to Touch Bionics, I may not be wearing the prosthetic hand I have now.
Cosmo.ph: Who are your role models in fashion and in life? Do introduce them to us so other Cosmo Girls will be inspired as well!
Ashley Graham has become one of my biggest role models in fashion. Although we come from two different worlds in the modeling industry, we have very similar messages in that we both strive to break the rigorous and unrealistic beauty standards in the media.
More importantly, my mom has always been a huge role model to me. She helped me embrace the things I hated about my body (cellulite, stretch marks, and of course, my arm). I realize now these were all just part of what made me unique.
Cosmo.ph: What’s the biggest misconception about your prosthesis?
Rebekah: I think most really underestimate how difficult it truly is to adjust to using one. I've lived almost my entire life doing everything a certain way. From tying my shoes to curling my hair, I've learned to do everything with just one hand. Having a prosthetic hand changed all of that. I have to remind myself to use the bionic hand sometimes.
Cosmo.ph: Is “Bionic Model” something you intentionally coined for yourself to spread your cause for diversity in fashion? What was the initial reaction on social media?
Rebekah: As someone who studied Advertising in college, I know the importance of slogans and easy-to-remember sayings.
I knew my name could easily be forgotten or lost in the fashion industry, but I never wanted to be remembered as the model with a disability. I had to bring something cool and exciting to the table, and that's when I started using the term "Bionic Model."
Cosmo.ph: Please share with us your top three fave IG photos ever.
1. Speaking at the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders 2016:
2. Enjoying friendship and good music:
3. With "mini me" Gianna Schiavone at the FTL Moda’s autumn 2016 collection at New York Fashion Week:
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