Tracy Has A Rare Illness But It Didn’t Stop Her Taking Part In This Daring Photoshoot

Tracy McConnell by photographer Danielle Fields

LOOKING at these bold pictures it would be easy to imagine that this feisty woman who exudes confidence has always been so gutsy.

They show a stunning woman smiling, sometimes even flirting at the camera, she appears seductive and daring.

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo.  Make-up by Donna Stewart.

This self-assured woman is Tracy Mc Connell, a woman who is refusing to be sidelined.

She explained: “I’m not going to let my condition or anyone’s preconceived notions (even mine) of what I can or can’t do, limit me. Life is too short to accept those kinds of limits blindly.”

Tracy 34, an office worker from Armagh was not always the daring woman the photographs by campaign creator Debbie Deboo portray.

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo

Tracy McConnell by photographer Danielle Fields

Suffering from the rare Klippel-Feil Syndrome, which occurs in one out of every 42,000 births worldwide, she has endured prejudice which at times resulted in a poor body image.

Tracy openly describes how the condition affects her explaining that her “C3 to C7 vertebrae are fused. This means that I have a very short neck, It sort of webs into my shoulders, and I can’t turn my head very far or raise my hands above my head.”

Along with this she also suffers from the secondary condition of Sprengel’s syndrome, which Tracy describes as “the rotation of the scapula (shoulder blades), meaning my shoulder blades are at an odd angle so lifting things (even light ones) parallel with my chest is just not possible.”

For Tracey her illness means that she often has breathing difficulties as her lungs can never fill to capacity. The result is that she has to limit physical activities such as sports or many everyday things that someone with a full lung capacity would take for granted.

She explained: “If I do any kind of activity that leads to bigger or faster breaths, I get a terrible pain in my chest as my lungs fight against my ribs for the room the need to expand.”

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo. Make-up by Donna Stewart.

Tracy has encountered discrimination as a result of her disabilities, but her attitude is one of resilience.

“Most of the discrimination I face is unconscious, rather than malicious” she argued.

When she does experience blatant discrimination she does her best to disregard it.

“I try not to let people’s opinions/ prejudice affect me too strongly. It’s not always easy” she added.

It was in her teens however when she struggled the most.

“I’m not going to lie. The teen years where horrible…… some teenagers can be mean and creative. I got called some names that I didn’t understand in my naivety, which made me feel isolated. I never really felt feminine even with the developing curves”.

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo. Make-up by Donna Stewart.

Tracy’s illness also means that she is only 4ft 6 and looks much younger than her 34 years. This has meant that she has often been confused as a child or simply overlooked.

It’s hardly surprising she suffered confidence wise and in her lower moments the normally resilient Tracy struggled with her self-image.

When asked how she felt about this, she revealed: “It’s very hard to feel confident in your own body when who you are doesn’t match what people think they see. I do look young. Much younger than I am.”

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Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo

Despite this Tracy had always receive compliments on how she looked, but her low confidence meant that she rarely believed them. The turning point for her came when she began to take the compliments from others to heart rather than instantly dismissing them.

She said: “I had never really taken those kind of complements seriously. I always had this idea that they were just saying it out of politeness. So in the last few years, I have been trying to fight my instinctive reaction to disregard a complement and try to accept it and enjoy it.”

Tracy in Shakespeares MacBeth

Tracy in Shakespeare’s MacBeth

When she began to ignore her darker thoughts and embrace herself she was able to see what everyone else could, that she was beautiful. Tracy’s transformation in mind-set allowed her to develop a heightened confidence, to embrace new challenges and most importantly abandon her previous self-imposed restrictions.

Tracy whose hobbies include being with her cats and dogs, reading, and all things sci-fi decided to push the boundaries of her life and to daringly attempt things she had always wanted to do. The first of these was getting involved in acting, she joined an amateur dramatics group and successfully secured a role in her first play. She enjoyed acting the part as a witch in the ‘Bigger than Us’ production of Macbeths so much, that she plans to act again in the future.

Tracy in Shakespeares MacBeth

Tracy in Shakespeares MacBeth

For Tracy, acting was just the beginning, she still felt she needed to push more boundaries.

She said “After being brave and jumping into amateur dramatics last year, I decided that would be my resolution this year. Be Brave, Try New Things, Accept and Embrace myself”

Her opportunity to be brave and try new things came when a chance conversation with photographer Debbie Deboo who offered her the opportunity to model, in line with her new year’s resolution she courageously took up the challenge.

With her previous mind-set the lack of non-abled bodied models might have been off-putting, but fearless Tracy was determined not to be discouraged. When asked if she feels the modelling world should encompass all body types, able and disabled she said “Absolutely! Beauty and sexy comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s great to see some of the industry branching out but it’s still far too rare. Even something like plus size models are far too rare, never mind people who have other conditions”.

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo

Tracy McConnell by photographer Debbie Deboo. Make-up by Donna Stewart.

Tracy’s shoot was great success, her increased confidence meant that she was able to suggest different styles to the photographer. The result was a collection of stunning photographs ranging from tame to raunchy all of which were themed around forties and fifties pinups.

Friends and family were supportive of Tracy’s shoot although she admits some were a little surprised.

She said: “Most of them were really supportive. I have had a lot of complements about the photos and some of my friends have expressed envy at my confidence in doing that kind of shoot…… It forced some people to see me in a new light”.

Anyone looking at the classy, elegant and sometimes risky pictures can see that Tracy has a real gift when it comes to modelling.

And will she ever do it again?

“I absolutely will do it again. Maybe not in that style of shoot as I do want to keep trying new things. I’ve spoken to a few photographers and we are going to try and sort out some shoots in the next few months” she said.

Without Tracy’s bravery, gusty personality and most of all her loving herself her hidden talent would never have emerged. Instead her tenacious attitude has endorsed her own beauty and sets an example to others.

Her inspirational message to anyone else struggling to overcome a negative body imagine, other people’s perceptions or a low self-esteem is: “your condition does not have to define who you are. How people see you doesn’t have to define who you are. You define who you are, no-one else. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries. Fight to change perceptions. Enjoy who you are. You are already amazing. You just have to believe it.”

See more from the Chronically Fabulous team at www.facebook.com/chronicallyfabulousNI.

**Photos may not be reproduced without permission of original photographer.  For more information about how you can publicise this campaign email tina@excaliburpress.co.uk.**