How the First Tube-Fed Model to walk NYFW Turned Sickness into Strength

by Ariela Paulsen
How the First Tube-Fed Model to walk NYFW Turned Sickness into Strength

We all have heard of the iconic fashion event, the New York Fashion Week.  Held twice a year, models, designers, hair and make-up artists, and photographers flock to the Big Apple to showcase their talents. This overflow of art and talent is such a spectacle to watch.

So many spend their life dreaming of even witnessing NYFW.  In 2018, we checked in with Mellie White, NYFW’s first tube-fed model!

a battle won

In 2017, I was the very first tube-fed model to ever walk the runway of “Art Hearts Fashion Week.” This wasn’t just a dream come true – it was a battle won for me and others like me who have fought hard to break open the doors to the fashion industry.  It has been a huge goal for me to have the opportunity to bring diversity to such a prestigious event.

It’s so surreal. I received so many messages from hurting mothers who have children that eat through the same small feeding-tube I have lived on for 5 years. Mothers telling me how my bravery has given them comfort. By showing my feeding-tube, I was able to tell the world that we are more than our medical diagnosis or feeding-tubes.

the one with the feeding tube

Mellie White | Mighty Well | Feeding Tube

When I was 13, I lost the ability to eat due to gastroparesis. Because of this disease, I need feeding-tubes to get nourishment. As a teenager, I started to lose self-confidence due to the fact that my feeding-tubes were not socially well-received – they were different.

After hearing stories from many others who didn’t feel comfortable leaving home because of their feeding-tubes, I realized something needs to change. I decided, despite my medical challenges and heartaches, to turn my sickness into strength. I pursued modeling and started on a journey of rebuilding my own self-confidence.

I decided, despite my medical challenges and heartaches, to turn my sickness into strength.

an advocate with a story

When I started modeling, my biggest driving force was my will to help others. I’m not just a model and an actress, I’m an advocate with a story. Through modeling, I am able to help others view their own medical challenges as something that can make them stronger. Medical devices are a blessing because they help us live. I love my feeding-tube for the life and dreams it allows me to pursue.

My first year at Fashion-Week, I modeled in the “Art Hearts NYFW 2017 & 2018” show for “Snooty Booty Designs”. This year, I was also honored to Model for “Bel Ange Couture by Peytyn Herron” at Cosmopolitan NYFW 2018.

Being a model and having multiple chronic illnesses isn’t easy but I would say it is worth it.

I don’t walk for me anymore – every single time I walk that runway, I think of all the people who are hurting daily. I walk that runway for the the people who had to give up their dreams, the ones who lost their life due to this horrible disease, the ones who hate everything about themselves, and the one’s who fight not to give up.

To me this is more than a show, more than a runway, more than the clothes. To me, this is my life. I wake up for this, I fight for this, my whole being is this, I know every moment I am alive it is because my work is not done.

To me this is more than a show, more than a runway, more than the clothes. To me, this is my life.

if you are just existing day to day, stop

I hope Fashion Week is just the beginning for me and us. We have a lot of work to do in this industry and I feel like every single day, we progress a little further with diversity

To anyone reading, illness or not, never wait. This is your moment. If you find you are just existing day to day, stop – don’t wait for this or that to live. Your time is now, in this moment. Enjoy life, laugh, and make dreams your reality.

Want to connect with Mellie and our community? Join us in our Friends in the Fight group.

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