Effortlessly smiling and posing for the camera, Brittany Griffin is a natural model. With her striking looks, it is hard to tell that the 19-year-old, who has been signed to one of New Zealand's most prestigious modelling agencies, has only one arm.
After being scouted on the street by Amanda Betts at Red11, it wasn't until Brittany's meeting at the model agency that they noticed her disability.
'People who see me walking down the street don't usually notice anything different about me,' Brittany says. 'Like most girls I had always dreamed about modelling but never thought it was something I would ever do.'
'I think it would be pretty amazing to open a magazine and see my pictures inside.' Brittany's parents, Bronwyn and Stephen Griffin, were shocked to find out their little baby girl's arm had detached while in the womb. Known as a congenital amputation, a small band had wrapped around her arm at about 20 weeks, cutting off circulation.Initial shock
'We were devastated,' Bronwyn says. 'Here we were, excited about our first child, and suddenly all I could think about was how she was going to cope in life.'
But this was short-lived, and neither Brittany nor her family refer to it as a disability. In fact, the 19-year-old visual arts university student is often told she is more capable than most.
'I don't think many people would be able to horse ride, kayak, swim, tie up their hair or paint their nails with one hand,' says Brittany, the eldest of five children. 'I passed NCEA at school, breezed through my full licence, have a part-time job and study visual arts – that sounds pretty normal to me.'
Like most teenagers, Brittany enjoys getting dressed up to go out with her friends in the weekend and, in some ways, having one arm has made it easier when meeting others.Born this way
'People that aren't OK with me, especially guys, may back off, but then you get the decent ones who say how strong I am,' she reveals. 'Their reactions are a good way of picking out the good guys from those who can't accept me the way I am.'
Growing up, Brittany was never an exception or made to feel like a special-needs child.
'I'm really grateful for the way my parents brought me up and that I wasn't sheltered. I never had Velcro shoelaces and did the same chores as my brother and sisters,' the outgoing blonde explains. 'I learnt how to do things my own way and have never come across a task I can't handle.'
When she was five, Brittany became the youngest child in New Zealand to get a myoelectric arm. Family friend and ex-All Black Zinzan Brooke organised an auction to raise funds so Brittany could go to Melbourne and have the prosthesis fitted.
Despite enjoying the benefits of an artificial arm, more people began to notice her disability than ever before, and when she eventually grew out of it, she decided not to have it replaced.
'I don't hide my arm, but I am discreet about it. It saves me having to explain my situation all the time,' she says.
'Personally, I wouldn't ask a random [person] how they ended up in a wheelchair.' Brittany's charisma and fun attitude means she has always had a strong group of friends and was never singled out at school.
'I try not to take life too seriously and found it funny telling people a crocodile or shark bit off my arm,' she says with a laugh. 'This is just one of those things in life you can't control. Yeah, I've only got one arm, and that's all it is.'I don't want people to feel sorry for me, because I don't. This doesn't define me. I'm not the girl with one arm, I'm Brittany.'