The gun went off and suddenly life as Samanta knew it was changed forever. She was only 14 when she accidentally shot herself while playing with her dad’s gun.
“This left me in a wheelchair, the bullet burnt the spinal cord.”

One of Samanta’s biggest issues is constant chronic pain, but she has managed to develop ways of managing it.

Cleaning up her diet by cutting out red meat, fried and sugary foods, dairy and her medication has also helped her cope by giving an extra boost of energy.

The top of my advice would be you need to take focus out of the pain.

Samanta BullockInclusive Fashion Icon

Samanta had a pretty normal life growing up in Brazil. She played tennis and handball, was a leader in her class and modelled professionally. Her life since that fateful day has been a journey, all about adapting, and pushing boundaries.

Samanta tried her hand at wheelchair tennis but found her wheelchair much too big for her to manage. It wasn’t until she was 26 that she realised she needed a different chair in order to play.

Soon Samanta fought her way to the position of women’s number one in Brazil and in 2007 won silver with her doubles partner in Rio. As she wasn’t able to work and play tennis at the same time, Samanta hunted out people and companies who would be willing to sponsor her tennis career, paying for trips and equipment.

As different sports tend to require different wheelchairs, they can end up being quite expensive. Samanta advises not to buy anything until you’re sure it’s a sport you enjoy.

“You need to try, see if you like, if you like, see if you like it enough to buy a wheelchair.”

Standard equipment could cost around $300, she says, but people wanting to take their sport more seriously would likely have to fork out a lot more.

Samanta still hits the runway regularly as a fashion model and in February last year, found herself at London Fashion Week.

“In 2005, I went to them and I said, can I do the catwalk for you?”

When you really want something, you need to make things work

Samanta BullockInclusive Fashion Icon

She was almost refused on the basis that there were two steps leading up to the stage, but Samanta convinced them she could make it work.

“I offered myself. It wasn’t like someone found me on the streets and said oh come here and be my model. No. When you really want something, you need to make things work.”

Without fighting for things, Samanta says people with wheelchairs just don’t get enough visibility. The inclusive modelling work is there, but people need to be willing to go ahead and break down the door to get it.

Photo credit: Michael Atkinson

Last year she also started her professional Instagram account, and after spending the last 13 years in the public eye as a top tennis player, has become a social media influencer.

“Trying to make people in a chair look more capable and say ‘we can’. Go there and fight.”

Samanta’s sense of positivity has always been a key factor for her, and is something she wants to pass on through her social media accounts.

“You can look at a challenge in a bad way, but you can also look in the good way, and I think I always had this positive vibe, we always have the choice, we always do. We can look from the bad side, but also have the positive to learn.”

“It’s not about the end, it’s about the journey… sometimes we get so scared to put ourselves out there. I’m 40 years old, my legs are thin, so what. We are who we are, and we need to accept and love ourselves.”

If you’d rather listen than read…

Listen to the Podcast with Samanta Bullock now.

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