Little Miss Turtle | How I got married - HandiFashion 2015

How I got married…

HandiFashion 2015 | My experience

What is HandiFashion?

In October 2015 I had the great pleasure to take part in the fashion show HandiFashion by Mougins in France. HandiFashion”, which was created in April 2012 by French journalist Corine Tonarelli, is a national fashion concept showing fashion for all. It took place in Paris twice and also in Aix-en-Provence and Aubagne. Beauty and style are not restricted to able-bodied as can be seen in these days fashion shows/adds with models like Winnie Harlow, Jillian Mercado or Madeline Stuart. The Handifashion models (with and without disabilities) were chosen at a casting in June 2015. And I should be one of them.


How it all began

On a sunny and warm day last spring I was hanging around at the beach of Juan Les Pins together with my sweetheart. After a while I noticed some people staring at me for a long time but this didn’t bother me any further. But only a couple of minutes later they came over to see me. And WHAT an astonishing surprise: Sonia, who was part of the organization team, really asked if I could imagine taking part in a fashion show, called Handifashion by Mougins, as a model! “Hhmmm, ME, a model in a fashion show with many people !!?? Am I ready for this??!!” were my first thoughts. But I also noticed some arising excitement in my belly – in a positive way. And then I simply replied “Okay! Let’s give it a try! I’ll go to the casting!”. Sonia took a picture of me and gave me all the info about the casting in the following June. At that time I didn’t believe that I would pass the casting anyway…!


The Casting

Casting for Handifashion

Casting for Handifashion

The day of the casting came, and I was very nervous to walk – or let’s better say to “roll” – in front of the jury. Luckily my boyfriend decided to give it a try, too as we were told that it could be fun to see us together as a real couple. And so the two of us had the chance to do the casting, which made it easier! The jury, including Sonia, asked us to present ourselves and we had to answer some questions (like if we had some experience in modeling or acting and how we see fashion in general). The funny thing is that I don’t care for fashion trends or brands. I simply wear what I like – I’m not very girly or stylish and this I told the jury. They then turned up the volume, and each of us had to walk up and down the catwalk. I liked the song and did what I would do if I were a model. My boyfriend and I then walked one more time hand in hand. Afterwards, I absolutely had no clue about how I presented myself and if my attempt at “wheeling” up and down the catwalk was good or not. Pictures of us were taken and we were recorded on video. The jury told us that we would get news in about three weeks time.


And what else should I say: 3 weeks later my phone rang, and Sonia asked: “Do you guys have anything planned for the 10th of October yet???”. I didn’t get it at first – but THEN – we made! The perfect surprise was that we were selected to be the wedding couple at the end of the fashion show! Oh my god! Me as a bride and my chéri as the groom! I felt frightened and happy and overwhelmed all at the same time. My boyfriend was much more serene though.


The Preparations

We met the other beautifully different and beautifully valid models only once for repetitions. All of them were nice, and we had a good time together at the repetition training. I’ve met some people with very inspiring personalities which I do admire! After the repetitions, I was desperately looking forward to the D-day. We met for the fittings twice. My boyfriend and I felt happy with our outfits and the big day came closer and closer.



Due to heavy rain and flooding the fashion show, initially planned for October 10th, had to be postponed to October 31st. This event of delay only increased my excitement…

The Show

And there it was – October 31st! At 10:30 am we met the whole crew at Eco Parc Mougins and straight away got to work on our choreography. The catwalk scenery was just amazing. I didn’t expect the Handifashion show to be as professional! As we got to know that there would be more than 400 people watching I slightly felt like escaping… !! However, there was no time to think about this fact for too long as we had to change into our outfits twice for training. The whole group had lunch together which was followed by the final repetition. We then had our hair done and got professional makeup (yep, the men too). All the girls and boys looked so handsome! When the make-up artist finished my beauty look, it was almost 8 pm! Not much time left neither for changing nor for getting ready mentally. With my hair and makeup, I felt pretty, which helped me to gain confidence. My dressing assistants were adorable, and they made me relax. I already heard the opening words of our fantastic host Matthieu Nina and of special guest Noémie Lenoir (international model and actress). My heartbeat began to race, my hands got wet, and I felt sick… “Breath, Melanie, breath!” I told myself. Just minutes before the opening of Handifashion by Mougins 2015 I felt as if I would faint! I only wanted the show to start… I was the fourth or fifth model to walk onto the stage. All the other models also couldn’t wait for the show to begin and we all wished us good luck and much fun! The DJ played the first song and the models Margot and James opened the show.



Then everything happened really fast. Our song began to play, and I rolled out on the catwalk in my first outfit. So there I was! Luckily I didn’t see the audience as the light spots shone right into my face. I didn’t even realize the flashlights of all the photographers. My first run was over as fast as it began. I hurried back to the fitting room and got changed. My second outfit showed pretty much skin which made me feel like if I were playing a role – personally I would never even consider wearing a dress like this one…! But the job had to be done, and about 20 minutes later I turned back into the spotlight with the beats of Michael Jackson’s “Love never felt so good”. The second time I thoroughly enjoyed the moment. The stress and stage fright were all gone.


The third time on the catwalk should be the highlight for the audience. The lights went out and my boyfriend, dressed as fiancé, showed up on the catwalk with the first beats of Disclosure’s „You & Me“. He tried to find his bride with the help of a circulating spotlight. The audience was curiously observing his show. At the same time, I impatiently waited behind the scenes for my appearance. Seconds turned into minutes… But then Camille softly touched my shoulder to tell me that it’s time for me to go. I took a deep breath and rolled out on the catwalk in my beautiful wedding dress (by Charm’Fou Mariage), the bridal veil hiding my face. The audience cheered which made me shiver for a moment. My handsome husband caught sight of me, and we slowly moved towards each other. He put back the veil and took my hand. The atmosphere felt like in a movie. We deeply looked into each other’s eyes and finally kissed! This was THE moment when the audience could no longer sit still, they all started clapping and shouting. My boyfriend and I, groom and bride, walked together hand in hand down the catwalk accompanied by standing ovations. I could no longer hide my big smile. With happy faces, we posed for the photographers, and I even did a wheelchair turn around myself. Oops, my bridal veil fell back down which wasn’t planned that way! But anyway, I just continued smiling. I felt so relieved and happy at the end of the fashion show! When the final song started to play all the models walked one more time together, and it felt like a big party. The audience clapped as there was no end for the models and the organization team. Sonia, Camille, Corine and all the people who contributed to Handifashion by Mougins did a fantastic job! They worked hard for months to create this show in their free time without being paid. Everyone gave his and her best to set a mark with Handifashion 2015. After short speeches of the organization-trio the microphone was finally passed on to the mayor of Mougins, M Richard Galy, and to Mister France 2015, Aurélien Giorgino. They announced that the entry fees were donated to AYAME Charity, a charity organization supporting disabled children, especially with Down syndrome. Once more the audience cheered and applauded loudly.


The Afterparty


Meeting Noémie Lenoir after the show

Meeting Noémie Lenoir after the show

After the fashion show, we had the pleasure to meet Noémie Lenoir. Noémie is such a beautiful woman, I’ve seen her in ads and films before and couldn’t believe that she was standing next to us. She was adorable and together with my groom we took some pictures. Noémie even kissed me on the cheek. She said that I did a great job. Wow! I was so shy that I couldn’t say more than “Thank you!“. With the help of my dressing girls, I changed back into my clothes and so did the rest of us.

Afterwards, a private cocktail party was held for the special guests, the models, their families and friends, the organizers and all the designers and brands. Much more photos were taken, and interviews were given. Of course, we celebrated with our family and a couple of friends with a glass of champagne. We told no one that we would be the wedding couple, so everyone was surprised… Many people came to see my boyfriend and me and asked if we were married or a couple for real or if we were actors! There were even some people who had tears in their eyes when we kissed. I was overwhelmed by all the compliments I got that evening. Camille though hoped that my boyfriend would ask me to marry him, but for us, it was clear that this wouldn’t happen. But it still was the perfect fake wedding!



I feel grateful that I had the wonderful chance to be a part of HandiFashion by Mougins 2015! I would do it again anytime. This event helped me to leave my comfort zone once more. Seriously, I am not used to that much attention. I showed up in my power wheelchair and had the night of my life forgetting about my disease and everything that comes along with it.


Long life to HandiFashion! The next edition will take place in Saint Rémy de Provence in October 2016…! Thank you to everyone who made this event possible!
Photo credit: Mathieu Buzzanca

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One comment

  • Lenoir Françoise 08/04/2016   Reply →

    Coucou Mélie,

    Je ne connaissais qu’une partie de l’histoire: le défilé que j’ai revu avec presque autant d’émotion qu’en vrai !
    Mais ignorais la rencontre magique sur la plage de Juan les Pins…la vie réserve de belles surprises !

    Et la prochaine: vous remarier en octobre! Important de faire les rappels de nos engagements


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