Photographer inspired to make young girl's dreams come true
By Jennifer Davis, FOX 5 Reporter
Photo: Kerri Lane Photography
We've all heard tales about beautiful people being approached by photographers and asked if they want to model. Sometimes that leads to stardom and sometimes it doesn't. But we bet you've never heard the story end like this.
Photographer Kerri Lane was out to dinner with her husband last month in Leesburg, Va. when she saw Mackenzie Clare and her boyfriend.
"I see this beautiful redhead, and of course mermaid flashed in my head, and I said-- that is my mermaid. I've been working on this mermaid shoot and I thought she was stunning," Lane says.
So she approached Mackenzie - who was on on her prom date with her boyfriend.
"When I stood up that's the first time I saw she was in a wheelchair," Lane says. "It's not something you usually see for someone her age so it was a shock. But at the same time it was a shock and then ahhh, this would be phenomenal."
Mackenzie, 19, was surprised too. She's used to people approaching her with questions, but usually they ask why she's in a wheelchair.
"It was exciting because she wasn't asking me what was wrong or nosy or anything like that. It was for a photo shoot and it made me feel really special," Mackenzie recalls.
Mackenzie's mother always told her she was so pretty she should model, but any dreams she had of that were dashed at the age of 10 when a reckless driver hit her family's car as they headed to Baltimore on a rainy day. Mackenzie suffered a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the chest down.
"She would say nobody's ever going to want me to be a model. I'm in a wheelchair and I can't do all the things models need to do," says her mother Lisa Clare.
But it turns out she can.
Mackenzie's photo shoot with Kerri Lane was Saturday, and Mackenzie says it was magical.
"It made me feel so special and good about myself and strong and proud," she says.
Mackenzie looks so much like the Disney princess Ariel that the mermaid shots were a given. Kerri also captured Mackenzie as a dancing princess. Some shots feature the wheelchair, and others don't.
"Something was taken away from her I feel and I would just like to give something back," Lane says.
Mackenzie says what she's gained is a large dose of self-confidence, and now when she looks at these photos, she says for the first time in her life she feels like she too could be part of a fairy tale.
"I've never seen models in wheelchairs in magazines or on commercials or TV shows, so it's something that seems like a high dream or a big dream that wouldn't really happen," she says. But when asked if it seems possible to her now, she says, "Yeah, it's starting to feel real that maybe I could pursue that and be one of the first models in a wheelchair."
Kerri Lane says Mackenzie was a real pro during their eight-hour shoot, and now the photographer says she plans to use the connections she has to see if she can generate some magazine or commercial interest in the young woman. On Monday morning, Lane posted a message on her Facebook page saying she had already been contacted about a possible local opportunity for Mackenzie.
Lane says a number of people helped to make the shoot magical for Mackenzie. That included Lane's son, Shawn Sealock, who spent countless hours designing a special tail for Mackenzie to wear in the water. Lane says it was his idea to add floating boards in the tail to help hold her up.
Lane's mom pinned the dresses, and she credits Paul Unger for sewing the costumes, Tim Hartley for filling the role of Prince Charming, Robyn Graves for help on the set, and Jeanette Kerns for doing hair and makeup.