Successful model, celebrated triathlete and leading disability advocate, James Parr has been named Australia's GQ 2023 Model of The Year.
Taking place in December, GQ's 2023 Men of The Year Awards strive to celebrate and commemorate Australian men from entertainment, fashion and sport who are making a difference, achieving their dreams and pushing the creative industry forward.
For the proud 26-year-old Wiradjuri man, winning GQ's 2023 Model of The Year was proof that those with a disability should not be discouraged by any opportunity.
Parr said he was "beyond grateful" to receive the award, saying he was still very shocked and in disbelief.
"For someone who came from nothing and having no parents and basically raising myself, to be given something like this is the craziest thing to me," he said.
"As I've always said, acquiring a disability was always okay with me but the negative connotation that it came along with was what was hard, and that came down to representation and that has always been my purpose, so no one would feel how I once felt.
"I want everyone who has a disability to know that it isn't a bad or sad thing and having a disability won't stop you, because I wouldn't have been able to achieve any of this if I didn't have a disability.
"Everyone that has ever supported me, worked with me, my team, my friends and my family. Thank you."
Despite being diagnosed with an osteo sarcoma in his right ankle and having to have below his knee amputated, Parr has used his disability to increase the visibility of people with a disability and further help change the narrative and stigma surrounding those with a disability.
"When I had acquired my disability I saw firsthand just how bad the stigma and connotation was that came along with having a disability and pretty much felt very lonely or isolated because I never really saw people like me," Parr told Style Up.
"Which is why I wanted to start modelling, to increase the visibility of people with a disability and help change the narrative or stigma that came along with a disability to a more realistic one - that having a disability isn't sad and we are still capable of great things.
"There are 4.5 million people in Australia that have a disability (both visible and invisible). I never want anyone else to feel the way I felt, so I think using my voice and my personal experiences are important in changing the way people look at disability so that we all feel equal and don't feel left out of society."
Although Parr started his career working in special education and studying teaching online, after his amputation he soon found himself not only walking the runways as a model, but running tracks as a successful triathlete.
"When I was 21, I had pain in my right ankle, was diagnosed with an osteo osteoid and was on a waiting list for ten months to have it removed," he said.
"During this time, I was heavily into CrossFit and was doing local competitions and then wanted to start transitioning to train and compete in Triathlons.
"It was then found I had an osteo sarcoma in my right ankle and it was misdiagnosed and started chemo straight away and had my below knee amputated to stop the cancer."
"When I had my leg amputated (it) gave me more of a push to go straight into triathlon training when I had finished chemo and recovered. I constantly had people telling me what I could or couldn't do but I wanted to push myself and see what I could do."
Having recently won the Social Impact Award at the 2023 Disability Leadership Awards, Parr is trailblazing a path forwards for both those with a disability and aspiring First Nations creatives.
Representing his culture, mob and community is something Parr has deemed significantly important right from the start.
His passion for community and culture has seen him advocate and push for greater change within the fashion industry.
"I am always so grateful to be able to represent my Mob and my culture," he said.
"I think the Representation of First Nations creatives is very slowly improving and First Nations creatives are being recognised more in the Fashion Industry, but it can and needs to be improved and First Nations creatives need to be included more.
"I think the next step I would like to see improved is including more First Nations creatives behind the scenes, particularly photographers, hair and make-up artists, stylists etc."
With a strong presence on social media, Parr also does share a large proportion of his life on social media, which he continues to do with the hopes of connecting with younger generations and those in similar situations – reinforcing that no matter who you are, where you come from or what you look like anything is possible.
"I think I would like to continue to provide representation, particularly in mainstream media to help shift the narrative around disability," he said.
"I just want people to feel included in society and know that they can do whatever they want to do they just need to do it and not let anything stop them as the only person stopping anyone is themselves and that was once me.
"If I can use my voice and story to hopefully inspire people that anything is possible, then I have achieved what I wanted to do."
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