Sports Illustrated Swimsuit has proved that it continues to embrace diversity as its recent catwalk show featured a model who took to the runway in a wheelchair.
Djaniel Carter, took part in the special edition’s 2019 runway show, which was held on Sunday evening during Miami Swim Week at the W South Beach. The Arizona native suffered serious injuries to her legs after years a professional dancer, and has been battling a condition that makes it difficult for her to walk and stand.
And despite many praising her and branding her inspirational for appearing on the runway, Djaniel revealed that she has since been called a ‘fraud’ by some, after she briefly stood up at the end of the catwalk.
Wow! Model and dancer Djaniel Carter, from Arizona, took part in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit catwalk during Miami Swim Week on Sunday, July 14
Inspirational: The model, who wore a red and white bikini, was wheeled down the runway by the publication’s editor, MJ Day, as she danced with her arms and posed for the audience
Amazing! When she arrived at the end of the runway, Djaniel briefly stepped out of the chair to strike a post for the audience as they cheered and clapped for her
The runway show comes just two days after the Sports Illustrated open casting call, during which thousands of women compete for a spot in the iconic publication.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shared an incredible clip to Instagram that showed the moment the model went down the runway with the assistance of the publication’s editor, MJ Day.
The caption on the video read: ‘After several years as a professional dancer, @djaniiel sustained traumatic injuries to both of her legs and has been battling an underlying medical condition that has yet to be diagnosed.
‘Despite the fact that she has a weakened ability to walk and stand, she has not let that stop her from pursing [sic] her dreams.’
Positivity: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit revealed that, after several years as a professional dancer, Djaniel sustained injuries to both of her legs
The video showed Djaniel sitting cross-legged in a wheelchair, while MJ, who wore a champagne-colored satin dress, wheeled her down the catwalk.
Members of the audience were seen applauding and cheering for the model, who wore a red striped bikini at one point during the show, as she used her arms to dance to Destiny’s Child’s Independent Women.
When she arrived at the end of the catwalk, Djaniel briefly stood up from her wheelchair to strike a pose for the audience.
In a short clip shared to her own Instagram stories, the model was seen stepping out of the chair, before strutting up to the very top of the catwalk.
Once she arrived at the front of the catwalk, she posed for the audience, raising her hands into her hair, before striking another pose and walking back to the wheelchair. She was then taken back down the catwalk with MJ’s assistance.
Since the video was shared to the publication’s Instagram page, it has garnered over 100,000 views and dozens of comments.
Many have praised the inclusion of the model, as they said it was ‘inspiring’ to see someone in a wheelchair taking on the catwalk.
Iconic: Pictured on the runway with MJ Day, Djaniel has since been battling an underlying condition which has not yet been diagnosed, and has a ‘weakened ability to walk and stand’
Fun! Since a clip of Djaniel’s on the catwalk was shared on Instagram, the publication has been praised for continuing to promote diversity, as many said Djaniel’s appearance was ‘inspiring’
Beauty: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Raine Michaels said Djaniel’s appearance is ‘everything’, while Camille Kostek said she ‘admires’ the model and dancer
One user wrote: ‘This is amazing and beyond inspiring. Thank you @si_swimsuit and @mj_day for constantly giving that runway the gift of diversity and all of us the empowerment to embrace our unique.’ Another said: ‘Truly beautiful woman! Inspirational is an understatement!’
Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Raine Michaels, 19, said: ‘This. Is. Everything. @djaniiel you are amazing.’
Similarly, 27-year-old model Camille Kostek added: ‘I can’t stop watching. You’re a force that I stand by DJ!!! I admire you.’
Struggle: Before the show, Djaniel took to Instagram stories to reveal that she was in ‘so much pain’, but that she would stay strong and push through for the catwalk
Speaking on her Instagram stories ahead of the catwalk show, Djaniel explained that she was in pain as a result of her condition.
The model also thanked the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue ‘family’, saying that ‘the girls’ have encouraged her and kept her in high spirits.
She said: ‘I’m so thankful because I’m here right now at Sports Illustrated, and they saw through what I can’t see through still to this day right now.
‘I’m not going to get all long and extended right now because I’m just trying to just say what’s up, but I’m in so much pain. My right arm is like not working, but tonight I’ll be walking in the Sports Illustrated swim show,’ she added.
Writing over her stories, she added: ‘Completely lost my point and what I wanted to say but whatever moral of the attempted story is I’m so greatful [sic] and so thankful for this family!!!
‘The girls have been so kind and so encouraging and helping me even though my body is not my friend and hasn’t been. I can’t talk right now and I’m in so much pain but I will get through this show!!!!!! I can do it!!!!! Because HE can do anything,’ she added.
And despite the overall positive response to Djaniel’s appearance on the catwalk, the model revealed on her Instagram stories after the show that she had been criticized, adding that she is going to ‘open up about her story.
‘I already got called a “FRAUD” I am going to open up about my story and about what my body goes through you don’t know me,’ she wrote.
She then shared some behind-the-scenes images from the catwalk show, one of which showed her lying down on a large cushion after the rehearsal.
Harsh: Despite the positive response the model revealed on her Instagram stories after the show that she was called a ‘fraud’, adding that she is going to ‘open up’ about her story
Backstage: She shared some images, one that showed her resting after a rehearsal (L) and another that showed her nails being painted after having a ‘severe whole body spasm’ (R)
Resting: Another image (L) saw her resting her body as she lay on a couch before the show took place, while a fifth photo (R) revealed that she had stitches in her foot at the time
Another image she shared showed her having her toes painted, and she revealed that she was having her toes painted after suffering a ‘severe full body spasm’.
Meanwhile, another image saw her resting her body as she lay on a couch before the show took place, while a fifth image revealed that she had stitches in her foot.
‘I was fighting more than just my brain and spinal cord last night,’ she wrote.
‘Posting later some truths about me and some extreme happiness and thankfulness to SI and MJ,’ she added.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit hosted the 2019 runway show during Miami Swim Week at the W South Beach.
The runway showcased a lineup of women who stand for important issues donning socially conscious swimwear looks by designers who encourage and promote sustainability, inclusivity and philanthropy.
The runway show opened with hijab wearing model, Halima Aden in a custom designed burkini by Cynthia Rowley that read ‘Don’t change yourself, change the game’, which set the tone for the show.
Leading up to the runway show, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit held its annual open casting call at the W South Beach on Friday, July 12.
Models from this year’s SI Swimsuit issue mentored interviewed and deliberated with the model search contestants to help them throughout the process.
The SI Swimsuit team selected 16 Model Search Finalists who graced the runway alongside the 2019 Model Search Winner and fellow SI Swimsuit models.