NEW YORK CITY – The extravagant, the unique and the bold can be found every year on the runways at New York Fashion week.
This year, among the never before seen patterns and bold faces in the crowd of models lining up for their time to shine was the face of someone who held a stance at an even higher, bolder platform than the others. Putting the social norms of beauty to the test.
When it was time for Archana Kochhar’s line called ‘A tale of two cities’ which embodies the elements and feel of the Taj Mahal to take the runway, one model in particular caught the crowds, and nation’s attention.
Reshma Quereshi from Mumbai, Kochhar’s first model to walk, is a survivor of a brutal acid attack which took place in India when she was just 17 years old.
Quereshi’s hoped her appearance at New York Fashion Week would send a wave of hope and encouragement to others who have been through similar attacks.
"This walk was important to me because there are so many girls like me who are survivors of acid attacks, and this will give them courage," Quereshi said in an interview, speaking through a translator. "And it will also go to show people who judge people based on their appearance that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover — you should look at everyone though the same eyes."
In 2014 in Allahbad, India, at the young age of 17, Quereshi was attacked by her brother-in-law and his friends while she was walking with her sister. The men attempted to douse acid on Quereshi's sister, but Quereshi intervened.
The attack caused her to lose her left eye and the effects of the deadly chemicals left her deeply scarred and she has since endured several skin graft surgeries.
Now, at 19, Qureshi says she was excited to find out that she would be participating in the famous runway show in New York City.
"I never thought in my wildest dreams that something like this would happen to me," Quereshi said, "and that I would be coming to such a big place to walk on such a big stage."
On Thursday, Quereshi walked down the runway wearing a long-sleeved, white dress with portions of the dress showing an elaborate pattern in buoyant colors and delicate embroideries.
Sunny Leone, a well-known Bollywood actress, also attended the show said "It's amazing how in one millisecond someone's life is destroyed."
"To be here, she's come so far," Leone said.
Quereshi has started a global campaign to end public sales of acid in India by creating a YouTube channel which has already attracted a large following.
"You'll find red lipstick as easily as you find acid. This is why everyday a girl becomes a victim of an acid attack. So help enforce the ban on the open sale of acid," she says, adding her YouTube videos carry her uniquely made hashtag #EndAcidSale.
"No one else understands what an acid attack is except the survivors themselves," she said. "I do not want this to happen to anyone else."
You can find her YouTube channel and information about Make Love Not Scars, a group that helps survivors of gender-based cimes, here.