B.C. quadriplegic athlete is the new face of Lise Watier campaign

B.C. quadriplegic athlete Jessica Kruger, 20, wins the new face of Lise Waiter's 'Something Sweet' perfume campaign. Lise Waiter | Facebook

B.C. quadriplegic athlete Jessica Kruger challenged the modeling industry’s image of the ’perfect woman’ – and won. The 20-year-old Coquitlam native beat out 407 contestants to become the new face of Lise Watier’s “Something Sweet” perfume campaign.

An SFU student and the only female member of the B.C. provincial co-ed rugby wheelchair team, Kruger entered the Montreal-based cosmetics company’s contest after hearing about it from a friend. The “Something Sweet” campaign had three steps: an entry, selection of finalists by the public’s vote, and selection of the winner by a jury.

Kruger finished first out of the five finalists selected by the public and travelled to Montreal for the final phase of the contest – meeting with the judges and a 12-hour photo shoot. She was the only final contestant that was from outside of Montreal.

“This is an opportunity for me to change the perception of what women in wheelchairs are capable of doing or what anybody in a wheelchair is capable of doing,” Kruger told AM/BC’s Jill Krop last week. “For me this isn’t just a contest to have people vote and tell me I’m attractive, this is about making a difference for women in Canada and all over the world.”

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Kruger became a quadriplegic at 15 when she fell two storeys from a ladder while painting a house. When she woke up in the hospital paralyzed, her primary focus was on her rehabilitation and it wasn’t until years later that she was able to fully understand this was her life going forward.

One of the obstacles she faced after her accident was her self-image and how she would be perceived – would they be able to see past the wheelchair? Being a teenager at the time of her injury, Kruger also struggled with how boys would see her and says, she needed a role model to look to and see that people in wheelchairs are beautiful. While she had strong women in wheelchairs at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver to admire, in the larger world of media, she didn’t have the role models.

Since her accident she’s become a public speaker for Workers Compensation and the Rick Hansen Foundation, travelling to high schools in the Lower Mainland and talking about her experiences.

The 20-year-old said earlier in the week that if she won the contest it’d be important to her to be “represented as myself – as Jessica Kruger who is in a wheelchair and is continuing with life and showing woman around the world that a woman in a wheelchair is beautiful.”

In the end, Kruger says the wheelchair doesn’t define her, even if you don’t see the wheelchair – she’s still someone with a disability that’s modelling.

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Kruger will be appearing on AM/BC with Jill Krop on Monday at 9 a.m. on BC1.

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