Acid attack survivor Reshma Qureshi has opened New York Fashion Week in a powerful challenge to standard perceptions of beauty.
The 19-year-old from India lost an eye and suffered severe facial burns two years ago when her brother-in-law and a gang of men pinned her down and threw acid in her face.
Fashion production company FTL Moda, who last year invited a model with Down’s Syndrome to take part in their show, asked the teenager if she would fly abroad for the first time to walk their runway.
Qureshi agreed, explaining: “I want to tell the world - do not see us in a weak light and see that even we can go out and do things.”
“I feel I’m doing this for the acid attack survivors that there are and to give them confidence, she told People before the show.
Wearing an elegant cream and floral floor-length gown by the Indian designer Archana Kochhar, she strode down the runway like a pro in a debut cheered wildly by the fashion crowd.
“I feel really good and the experience was great,” she says. “I feel as though it has definitely changed my life.”
The teenager, who now wants to finish high school and go to university, endured painful skin grafts and contemplated suicide after the 2014 attack.
Then she met Ria Sharma, the founder of Make Love Not Scars, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to helping acid attack victims regain their lives on their “own terms through recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration.”
Now she is a popular beauty vlogger and campaigner to restrict the sale of acid in India, where an estimated 1,000 acid attacks happen every year.
Qureshi's appearance on Thursday - the first official day of New York Fashion Week - came as an Indian court sentenced a man to death for murdering a 24-year-old woman by throwing acid on her face after she rejected his offer of marriage.
“I do feel brave,” she says.
Reshma Qureshi's viral #EndAcidSale beauty video