Quadriplegic Beats the Odds — and Lands Major Modeling Campaign

08/24/2012 at 03:00 PM ET

Push Girls Diane Bondareff for Sundance

You often hear that tenacity and perseverance are musts for any model who wants to succeed in the industry. Well, Angela Rockwood has those in spades.

After breaking into the business, she was in a horrific car accident that left her in a wheelchair. But instead of giving up, Rockwood decided that her injuries (which stripped her of the use of her legs and left her with extremely limited use of her arms) shouldn’t stop her from doing what she loves. And 11 years after that life-changing accident, she has achieved something she dreamed about, but never thought would really happen: Rockwood is modeling again, in a national campaign for Nordstrom.

Rockwood is one of the stars of Push Girls, a Sundance Channel series about the lives of four women bound to wheelchairs — and her story of breaking back into the business has been one of the most inspiring of the season.

“After my accident, the thought of modeling didn’t even cross my mind,” the 37-year-old, who identifies as quadriplegic, tells PEOPLE. “But what did occur to me was that I had been transported to the realm of the paralyzed for a reason. I realized I had a huge choice to make: to go down the positive path, be an example for others in similar positions and be a voice.”

To have her voice heard, Rockwood wanted to do something she knew how to do: model. “There weren’t many models in chairs to make a statement like, ‘Hey we are the consumers too!’ and ‘Who doesn’t want to look sexy or fashionable sitting in a wheelchair?'” she explains.

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who felt that way; Nordstrom had been looking for models with disabilities to be featured in an upcoming campaign. So Rockwood submitted her photos to a casting agency. “The rest was history,” she adds, happily.

Though she’s working under different circumstances than she did prior to the accident, nothing else has changed much, in her opinion. “When I was on set for Nordstrom, I felt like I was at ‘home’ again,” Rockwood says. “It was like throwing a fighter back in the ring to win their belt after a major setback from a recovering injury.”

To see Rockwood’s Nordstrom campaign shoot, watch the season finale of Push Girls, airing Monday, Aug. 27 at 10 p.m. ET on the Sundance Channel. And get an exclusive sneak peek below!

–Jennifer Cress

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , Fashion , Models , TV & Movies
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Showing 76 comments

Linda on

She is totally beautiful inside and out. What a courageous woman.

Cannon72 on

What an awesome story. Angela’s a beautiful woman whose dream came true! We should all follow Angela’s example of determination. I also commend Nordstroms for their campaign that celebrates more than the standard stick figure model.

NickyAngel on

Angela is beautiful :-)

Lorieanne on

Bravo Nordstrom! What a truly inspiring story!

Cindy on

What a beautiful women!

Sarah Singleton on

Congratulations Angela, you are not only an insperation to people in wheelchairs but to people who arent people who think that they cant do it…when in fact they can…you said you can and you did….

Jackie Lemmink on

Nice to see, keep it up!!

Denise on

All I could say was Damn, she is beautiful!

Robyn King Richards on

Hey People – a quadriplegic is paralyzed from the neck down (which means they cannot use their arms). Angela is a paraplegic. If you are going to publicize a success story of someone overcoming with a disability – you should at least identify the correct disability.

Norman Vogel on

There is a lot of bantering on if Angela is a quad or not. Guess what it doesn’t matter. She is a beautiful young lady who has a spinal cord injury who has overcome the effects to compete in a occupation that is diffacult at best for anyone. By the way I have a spinal cord injury at the same level as Angela . No matter what lable you wish to put on us it does not define us.

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