DENVER (CBS4)– This year’s Denver Fashion Week is making history thanks to a model with a lot of courage. And chances are, the runway will never be the same.
“What girl doesn’t want to be in a fashion show?” Kate Nelson said with a big smile.
Next month, Kate will take to the runway as the Denver Fashion Show’s first-ever model in a wheelchair.
“I showed up at the casting call and I was so nervous,” she said. “I just want to change people’s perspectives on people in chairs and this is one more avenue to do that. To be chosen and be one of the first in Denver to be on the runway with all these beautiful girls and guys, it means a lot to me.”
When designer Maggie Burns of Marie-Margot Couture saw Kate, she said she instantly knew she wanted her in the show.
“Kate is just a dream, an absolute dream, and so inspirational to me,” Maggie said.
Yet the designer’s dream is just a chapter in Kate’s incredibly inspirational story that CBS4 has covered for decades… one that begins with a tragic end.
“My family was in a hit-and-run drunk driving accident,” Kate explained.
The crash happened in 1979 when Kate was just 2 years old. Her father and brother were killed, and little Kate was left paralyzed from the waist down. The driver responsible eluded police for a decade and when Kate finally saw him in court, the 11-year-old couldn’t hide her tears.
“Nothing will ever bring back my brother and father,” she tearfully told us in 1989. “I’ll never get to have a real brother or a father like other kids do.”
From then on, it’s always been just Kate and her mom. The two built a strong bond, especially on tough days when Kate struggled with her chair.
“My mom always had a quote of telling me, ‘You can’t roll the world flat, so you have to figure it out,’” Kate told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
And as Kate prepares to make history on the Colorado catwalk, a new yet exciting challenge, she would give anything to have her mother there.
“She passed away last year from cancer,” Kate said, pausing to hold back tears. “Now it’s just me that’s left.”
From the sudden death of her father and brother to the painful goodbye with her mom, Kate has experienced loss like few can understand. However, Kate is choosing to focus on what she’s gained, like her mother’s strength and courage to move forward.
“I just want to do things that would make her proud and make my dad proud,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Just kind of leave that legacy like my mom did of everyone just thinking she was magical.”
That’s why Kate took a chance at a model audition, and she’s finding joy even when nervous to try something new.
“At least one good thing about being nervous, I can’t trip!” Kate said with a laugh. “I’m sure all the walking models that’s they’re number one concern.”
With Kate’s gown still in the works, Maggie said the design will leave Denver Fashion Week guests marveling at what’s beyond the dress, beyond the chair.
“I just want everyone to see Kate for her beauty, for her courage and strength,” Maggie said.
In turn, Kate will continue to be an inspiration – on and off the runway.
“I want others in chairs to see me and say, ‘Well, if she can do, I can do it,’” Kate said smiling.
Denver Fashion Week is March 23-31 and Kate will make her debut on the final night at the Forney Museum of Transportation.
LINK: Denver Fashion Week