Model: Maria Jose Torrealba
Spinal Cord Injury

Student, Fashion Merchandising

Who I am? I am an ordinary woman to whom something extraordinary happened. Adversities are an inevitable aspect of life. However, we all have within us a force that is greater than any adversity. I found a Finnish word with which I identify: sisukas. It means to decide, to have more control against the odds, and decide to face adversity with courage and determination. It is to accomplish something even when many others would give up. Practicing it is just facing your challenges with value and determination, against all odds. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a warrior, an unstoppable fighter. That’s why I identify with the definition of sisu. I am determined to achieve my goals even though many others give up! That’s me!

I am currently studying fashion merchandising at the Miami International University of Art and Design. This has been one of my dreams and my new challenge. I will show the world that even in the world of fashion, I am here to make a difference. Because the truth is that it is my now, and even if it were forever, there would be no reason to feel bad about my disability. That is because beauty reflects how well we feel about ourselves and what we project. It goes beyond whether or not we can walk.

Never say that you can’t do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can’t be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds… never be a victim of life; be its conqueror. — Mike Norton


Photographed by Luis Olazábal