Rebecca Legon (yes, she does know it’s a ‘funny coincidence’ to have that last name when she has one leg missing) was born with a rare limb deformity that caused her knee to grow out of her hip.
In order to get fitted for a prosthetic, she had to have her leg amputated at eight years old.
She went on to hide her leg for years, plagued by shame and low self-esteem.
Now, she’s landed work as a model and shares her story on Instagram to inspire other amputees to love their bodies.
‘I still remember the bizarre phantom pain that I explerience by wiggling, or itching toes that were no longer part of my body,’ Rebecca tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I always knew that I was different. Unlike today there wasn’t any awareness around disability.
‘I didn’t know any other disabled people, or even consider myself disabled.’
Rebecca says it’s ‘very sad’ to look back on her teens and twenties as she couldn’t accept her body.
She wore baggy clothes to hide her prosthetic leg and hated her body, which triggered an issue with alcohol.
‘Drinking gave me the confidence not to be bothered when people were looking,’ Rebecca explains. ‘I was extremely self-conscious and would dread being asked that question – “what’s wrong with your leg?”‘
Recovery from alcoholism came in large part from acceptance. Rebecca had to embrace her body and what made her different, and work against the shame and self-hate she’d been battling for most of her life.
In 2008 she took part in Britain’s Missing Top Model, a reality show for disabled women designed to make the world of fashion more inclusive. This hammered home just how necessary it is for people to see those with disabilities proudly living their lives, and gave Rebecca the push she needed to do the same.
‘I hope that by showcasing myself [I will] inspire others and show that it is okay to be different,’ says Rebecca. ‘It is a tough journey but from my own personal experience, once you accept yourself and your imperfections, you can be truly happy.’
Now 38, Rebecca works as an entrepreneur in creative design as well as doing PR and event management. She refuses to let being an amputee hold her back from doing anything she fancies, and regularly challenges herself to try new types of sport and exercise to make sure she’s at her physical peak.
‘I work out every day and walk 5k most days with my Hungarian Vizsla Ralph up the Ashdown forest,’ Rebecca tells us. ‘It is my spiritual happy place and if I am feeling anxious of down after a walk I am much better.
‘Keeping fit mentally sees me through the week and I couldn’t live without it.
‘I also love to go skiing, swimming, horse riding and cycling — of course being a mother is also exercise, running around looking after my babies!
‘I have been an amputee all of my life and having been wearing a prosthetic leg since I was two years old, so I do not know any different.
‘I am fit and healthy physically and (now) mentally so it does not really affect my life, although by 8pm I am ready to take my leg off and relax.’
Rebecca makes sure to share her life on Instagram to increase visibility of amputees, hoping that she’ll be able to help anyone else struggling with body image and low confidence.
‘I felt ashamed of my disability, which was mentally a lonely and isolating time,’ she says.
‘However, I was still strong-willed and determined and when I was told that I couldn’t do certain things, I would try to prove everybody wrong.
‘Now, after a long confidence battle I am happy to say that I have finally accepted my deformity and my true ‘body form’ — but it has been a long and tough journey!
‘I have always had a deep burning desire to do something positive with my life and to help people in similar situations, but until recently my confidence had stopped me.
‘I hope that through my life, I can help others to accept themselves for who they are.
‘It is impossible to define normal. Everybody is different, and this is totally okay. Whether it be a disability, mental anxiety, skin colour, religion, sexual preference, in this day and age any difference needs to be accepted.
‘I want to inspire others to accept their imperfections.’