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Riki Hotwheels on how she found success as a model

In August, 1991, when Riki Leach was just nine years old, she experienced an asthma attack that would change her life forever. 

The Brisbane-based model’s heart stopped for more than five minutes and as a result, she was left with an acquired brain injury and a number of painful physical challenges. 

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Despite this and the years of bullying and obstacles that followed, Ms Leach, 35, has since found success as a model and digital artist and will soon train to become a psychologist in a bid to help young women.

Here, Ms Leach, who goes by Riki Hotwheels online, speaks to FEMAIL about her experience and why she will never allow her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.

In August, 1991, when Riki Leach was just nine years old, she experienced an asthma attack that would change her life forever

‘When I came into this world I was able bodied. I had no impairments and at school I was an extremely academic high achiever,’ Ms Leach said. 

 I spent many months re-learning how to communicate, move my limbs and swallow.

‘I was always the first the first one to raise a hand to answer a question or volunteer to go first to speak publicly. I loved writing stories, reading, learning, drawing anything to do with absorbing knowledge or art.’

Ms Leach was diagnosed with asthma when she was three and by age nine she was having asthma attacks on a daily basis. 

‘On August 6th 1991, I suffered a severe Asthma attack leading to a hypoxic episode. My heart stopped, this declared me dead for several minutes causing lesions on my brain; leaving me with permanent brain damage,’ Ms Leach said.

The Brisbane-based model's heart stopped for more than five minutes and as a result, she was left with an acquired brain injury and a number of painful physical challenges 

The Brisbane-based model’s heart stopped for more than five minutes and as a result, she was left with an acquired brain injury and a number of painful physical challenges 

'I spent many months re-learning how to communicate, move my limbs, swallow and understand what was going go around me,' she said

'Today I have Parkinson symptoms from the injury which means my brain does receive the signals to cooperate with body properly so I spasm and shake and I am on numerous medications to try to assist,' she said

‘I spent many months re-learning how to communicate, move my limbs, swallow and understand what was going go around me,’ she said 

‘I spent many months re-learning how to communicate, move my limbs, swallow and understand what was going on around me. 

‘Today I have Parkinson symptoms from the injury which means my brain does receive the signals to cooperate with body properly so I spasm and shake and I am on numerous medications to try to assist. 

‘I do have to use a wheelchair on a daily basis to get around but all this has not stopped my positive outlook on life.’

Following her asthma attack, Ms Leach left her school and friends behind to move to a city where she was closer to her neurologists, physiotherapists and specialists. 

'The only disabled child in the whole school, I was bullied relentlessly to the point I had a breakdown by age eleven,' she said 

‘The only disabled child in the whole school, I was bullied relentlessly to the point I had a breakdown by age eleven,’ she said 

‘Starting a new school wasn’t the issue the for me, the issue for me was I was now physically disabled,’ Ms Leach said. 

 I’m not an overly confident person – I am just a really positive person.

‘The only disabled child in the whole school, I was bullied relentlessly to the point I had a breakdown by age eleven. Children can be so cruel. We moved again a year later and I was much happier in a smaller town.’

Before her asthma attack, Ms Leach had wanted to be a lawyer or journalist but afterwards, she developed a love for more creative endeavours.   

‘I carried a camera absolutely everywhere I went,’ she said. 

Ms Leach put her modelling on hold in 2016 to care for a sick friend and during this time started a counselling diploma. She also plans to do a full psychology degree in 2019,' she said

Ms Leach put her modelling on hold in 2016 to care for a sick friend and during this time started a counselling diploma. She also plans to do a full psychology degree in 2019,' she said

Ms Leach put her modelling on hold in 2016 to care for a sick friend and during this time started a counselling diploma. She also plans to do a full psychology degree in 2019,’ she said

‘When I was 17 I was the first disabled model to be accepted into World Models.

‘However  in my teens I suffered extremely low esteem so I had another option if the modelling didn’t pan out – I wanted to be a counsellor. I have always been someone who tries to assist others.’   

Her modelling and photography endeavours have been successful, with Ms Leach winning the Trienenberg Award with Brennan Finighan (world’s largest photo competition) and getting a standing ovation while making her way down the runway in my wheelchair.

Ms Leach put her modelling on hold in 2016 to care for a sick friend and during this time started a counselling diploma. She also plans to do a full psychology degree in 2019.

Her modelling and photography endeavours have been successful, with Ms Leach winning the Trienenberg Award with Brennan Finighan (world's largest photo competition) for this photo

Her modelling and photography endeavours have been successful, with Ms Leach winning the Trienenberg Award with Brennan Finighan (world’s largest photo competition) for this photo

'To me being able to help another person through their struggles is one of the most amazing things a person can do,' she said

‘To me being able to help another person through their struggles is one of the most amazing things a person can do,’ she said

‘To me being able to help another person through their struggles is one of the most amazing things a person can do,’ she said. 

Ms Leach is often asked how she is able to stay so positive and confident despite constant pain and physical challenges.

‘I think we all have our good days and bad days. To be totally honest, I’m not an overly confident person – I am just a really positive person, or I try to be. If I’m having a bad day, I want to know why and I study myself and really reflect,’ Ms Leach said. 

‘I do get negativity from the public at time but I think everybody does. I always remind myself when this happens, these people are just reflecting their thoughts back on to others. 

'I do get negativity from the public at time but I think everybody does. I always remind myself when this happens, these people are just reflecting their thoughts back on to others,' she said 

‘I do get negativity from the public at time but I think everybody does. I always remind myself when this happens, these people are just reflecting their thoughts back on to others,’ she said 

'I learned to move on by accepting what I have and I knowing that I am here for a purpose. My purpose for being here, is to encourage, assist and inspire others,' she said

‘I learned to move on by accepting what I have and I knowing that I am here for a purpose. My purpose for being here, is to encourage, assist and inspire others,’ she said

‘For young women out there with a disability, it does not matter what challenges you have. Rise to them, you can overcome anything, The power is inside yourself.

Ms Leach is set to marry her partner in coming months and is still modelling between studying commitments.

‘One of the biggest challenges I have faced in life was coming to terms with not having the abilities I used to have,’ Ms Leach said. 

‘I learned to move on from this by accepting what I have and I knowing that I am here for a purpose. My purpose for being here, is to encourage, assist and inspire others.’         



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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