• Fashion

Former Child Model now Struts on Runway with Artificial Leg

Photo by Takao Ochi / KanPara Press
Amane models a white dress during a fashion show held on Aug. 25, 2020, the day the Tokyo Paralympics would have started.

OSAKA — On the day the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics would have started, Amane was winning her own personal battle against a disability.

A former child model, Amane (she uses only her first name) was back on the runway, this time walking with an artificial leg.

Amane attracted attention by taking part in a fashion show held on Aug. 25 last year featuring women with prosthetic legs. It marked the first time that the 19-year-old, who had her lower right leg amputated due to an blood vessel disease, publicly revealed her condition.

Born in 2001 in Osaka, Amane started modeling when she was 5 after being scouted by a staff member at a boutique. She was also working as a member of an idol group when, as a sixth-grade elementary school student, she was hospitalized after feeling pain in her leg and running high fevers.

With her graduation from elementary school approaching, Amane was diagnosed in February 2014 as having granulomatosis with polyangiitis, a rare disease of the blood vessels. Necrosis set into her right leg, causing it to turn black and leaving doctors with no choice but to amputate below the knee.

She underwent the operation in July that year, having started her first year of junior high school. “I didn’t feel depressed,” she recalled, “because I thought I’d be able to walk again by wearing an artificial leg.”

Amane dedicated herself to rehabilitation following the surgery. With her never-give-up attitude, she was soon able to walk with the prosthetic leg.

But what the teen worried about most was what others would think about her leg. She kept it a secret from her friends and relatives, and would wear wide pants and long skirts to hide the leg. She put a blanket over it when seated.

That all changed in the autumn of 2019, when her prosthetist Fumio Usui introduced Amane to Takao Ochi, a photographer of Paralympic athletes. Ochi asked Amane to take part in the fashion show, and she thought, “Let’s give it a shot.”

In the August show, Amane wore both a school uniform and a white dress. Usui had prepared a silver prosthetic leg for the occasion, saying, “Gold would mark the final point. I want her to set her aims higher.” Such hopes were reflected in the gleaming silver.

Before the show, Amane called up her friends and told them about her prosthetic leg. Getting such a load off her mind allowed her to strut down the runway with dignity.

Amane has since expanded her wardrobe, including wearing miniskirts. Her aim is to work as a model overseas and she is now studying Korean and other languages.

Her goal is to follow the path blazed by Aimee Mullins, a former Paralympian who is now a prosthetic leg model. “Just like Aimee has given me courage, I want to lift the spirits of others,” Amane said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Amane strikes a pose in Osaka.