Reshma Qureshi of Mumbai walked the runway to raise awareness about the frequency of acid attacks in India.
Several A-list models kicked off New York Fashion Week, but one particular model stole the show. Reshma Qureshi, a 19-year-old survivor of an acid attack, made her NYFW debut, modeling for Indian designer Archana Kochhar.
The Mumbai native rocked a gorgeous floral floor-length gown, but wearing a fancy dress was the last thing on her mind. "I feel really good about walking in fashion week because I feel I'm not just doing this for myself," the teen told PEOPLE in a translated interview. "I feel I'm doing this for the acid attack survivors that there are and to give them confidence. I'm very excited to have this opportunity."
The horrific incident took place in 2014, when her sister's estranged husband and his friends attacked her, pinning her down and dousing her face with acid. Not only did she suffer extreme burns, but the teen also lost an eye in the process. Unfortunately, Reshma's story is just one of the estimated 500-1000 Indian women who are victims of acid attacks every year. Though many live through their attacks, survivors are left with severe physical and psychological scars that can keep them ostracized socially from friends and family.
The teen wants to bring awareness to this issue and is now the face of #EndAcidSale—a movement aimed to end the open sale of acid in India. She has also appeared in several beauty videos, where she offers makeup tips while talking about crimes against women. Last year, her tutorial about how to get the perfect red lips went viral.
She spoke with Agence France-Presse about her feelings on the catwalk after the show. “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."
Despite being a victim of such a horrific atrocity, Reshma has handled the consequences with a grace beyond her years. She refuses to let this life-altering experience get in the way of her hopes and dreams. "Why should we not enjoy our lives? What happened to us is not our fault and we've done nothing wrong and so we should also move forward in life," she said. "I do feel brave."