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Winnipeg model with a disability selected for cover of US mag Pin-Up Life

Winnipeg model Crystal Rondeau appeared on the cover of Pin-Up Life magazine.
Winnipeg model Crystal Rondeau appeared on the cover of Pin-Up Life magazine. Vintage and Vogue Photography

For photographer Mark Bilash, a chance encounter in a local Facebook group led to a series of unexpectedly inspiring shoots.

Bilash – whose Vintage and Vogue Photography specializes in vintage themes and styles, like 1950s pin-ups and the ‘old Hollywood’ look of the 1940s – told 680 CJOB a post from a model with a disability was the start of a journey that had a profound impact on him personally.

It also saw his photos of the model, Winnipegger Crystal Rondeau, who has spinal muscular atrophy, make the cover of Pin-Up Life, a popular U.S. pin-up magazine.

“I was so amazed and impressed at the amount of hardship and challenges that this girl goes through every day, and she still has the energy to want to do a photoshoot,” said Bilash.

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“There were definitely a lot of challenges to get it done – the timing, her transportation, all kinds of things. Posing, she has very limited ability, movement, but it turned out fabulous.

“It was really mind-blowing. Everyone goes through challenges and struggles, but this woman – I wouldn’t be able to handle her best day, and she has a perfect, positive attitude.

“I wanted to do better because she wanted to do better.”

READ MORE: Best of ‘Your Manitoba’ in December 2018

Dottie St. Laurent.
Dottie St. Laurent. Vintage and Vogue Photography

Bilash said after his enlightening experience with Rondeau, he wanted to further delve into photographing diverse models, which led him to connect with amputee Dottie St. Laurent.

The photos he took of St. Laurent ended up being published in the same issue of Pin-Up Life that featured Rondeau on the cover.

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“I figure we’re both true warriors and we deserve to be in that magazine,” said St. Laurent.

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“This was actually my first time (modeling), and it was on my bucket list.”

Bilash said his experience with the two models was a life-changer.

“It’s nice to do your regular shoots for clients and so forth, but every once in a while, you can meet someone who inspires you.”

WATCH: Disability support workers hope for pay hike

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