Rebekah Marine is 28, 5-foot-3, and has one of the most technologically advanced bionic hands in the world. When she is not strutting on fashion runways or posing for high-profile catalogs, she is raising awareness for people with disabilities.
“It took me a long time to build confidence in myself,” Marine said of her years growing up disabled in South Jersey. “Even my parents were worried if I adjust well in society.”
Rebekah is a congenital amputee, naturally born without her right forearm. Consequently, her young adulthood would endure professional and social setbacks that would often discourage her.
“People did not understand that being born without my right arm obviously made me more adjusted to working around it,” she said. “It was painful applying for jobs as a teen and having to face the difficulty of being prejudged as a liability.”
After graduating from college in 2010, Rebekah, then 22, was encouraged by her peers to consider the “unusual” profession of modeling. She was hesitant, above all reasons.
“Modeling was the last thing I imagined doing,” she said jokingly. “Who would have thought one of the shallowest industries would ever consider me?”
After working with a Philadelphia-based photographer that same year and sharing her portfolio online, Rebekah would later experience the “instant gratification of the Internet.”
“Facebook opened the doors…my first major push came from being found on the web,” she said of being discovered by the founder of Models of Diversity, Angel Sinclair.
The UK-based group connects models of all non-traditional & cultural walks of life and easily recruited Marine from the start. Her first major gig: New York Fashion Week last February.
“It was an exciting roller coaster…I only got a four-day notice,” Rebekah recalls of her “surprising experience.” “I was only wearing a chain and huge gems, no bra … it was for the Antonio Urzi show.”
During this time, she also became the face of Touch Bionics, the Livingston-based company that created the world’s first multi-articulating bionic hand in 2007. Marine recently became one of the first American women to be sponsored one of their most advanced bionic pieces — the i-limb Quantum.
“It’s the Rolls Royce of bionic hands,” Marine said, enthused. “I can use up to four different movements to change grips with my muscles and they provide an app on my phone that can allow me to manually change them.”
In addition to the bionic hand, Rebekah gets the parts connected to a technological forearm or “socket” at Philly’s Advanced Arm Dynamics. Learning to multitask with it has been an “adjustment to say the very least” for her.
She often shares these stories across the country as one of the ambassadors of the Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit that mentors those with upper limb differences.
“It brings me joy to be able to mentor and influence young children to feel comfortable in their skin,” she says. “It’s one of the many ways I feel as though I’m giving back while living such an amazing life.”
And her personal life has been even more intriguing. Once feeling rejected from dating and being bullied while in high school, Rebekah now has now found herself “too busy” to keep up with the countless men who have flooded her Match.com profile.
“I was stunned to see how many men actually responded,” Rebekah said of the time she created the dating site account and put up noticeable pictures with her bionic arm. “My profile joked ‘yes, I have one arm. No, I can’t juggle’ and my inbox went crazy.”
She has since deleted the account due to her inability to balance dating with her hectic schedule, but she remains optimistic in the future.
With her notable Nordstrom anniversary catalogue debut dropping next month and recent invitation to walk the runway again for the epic fall New York Fashion Week, Rebekah remains “inspired.”
“Life has taught me that beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes,” Marine said. “I’ve learned to embrace it, one arm and all.”