Indian acid attack survivor draws cheers on New York catwalk

Ms Qureshi walking down the runway in a gown from Indian designer Archana Kochhar's Spring/Summer 2017 collection during New York Fashion Week on Thursday.
Ms Qureshi walking down the runway in a gown from Indian designer Archana Kochhar's Spring/Summer 2017 collection during New York Fashion Week on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • An Indian teenager who lost an eye and whose face was brutally disfigured in an acid attack has walked the New York catwalk to whoops and cheers in what she called a life-changing experience.

Ms Reshma Qureshi, 19, brushed off nerves to stride the runway on Thursday like a pro in a stunning cream and floral floor-length gown by Indian designer Archana Kochhar on the first official day of New York Fashion Week.

"I feel really good and the experience was great," she said afterwards, speaking in Hindi through a translator. "I feel as though it has definitely changed my life."

She was invited to take part by FTL Moda, a fashion production company committed to challenging industry stereotypes of beauty and which last year invited a model with Down syndrome to take part.

Ms Qureshi, whose ambition remains to finish the last two grades of high school and go to college, said she hoped her participation would send a powerful message to other acid attack survivors.

In India, an estimated 500 to 1,000 acid attacks take place each year, mostly targeted at women and children. While they rarely kill, they leave severe physical, psychological and social scars that can see victims ostracised and hidden away.

Since Ms Qureshi was attacked by her brother-in-law, pinned down by his friends and her face doused with acid in 2014, she has become the face of a campaign to end the open sale of acid in India.

Thursday's show came the same day an Indian court sentenced a man to death for murdering a 24-year-old woman by throwing acid on her face after she rejected his offer of marriage, in a landmark judgment.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Indian acid attack survivor draws cheers on New York catwalk'. Print Edition | Subscribe