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Just back from a trek through the Himalayas, UK-based contemporary artist Sophie Morgan can sum up her passion in one word: adventure. I love adventures, she says with so much ardor that it's audible all the way across the Atlantic from her studio in Covent Garden, London. I love the thrill and excitement of going outside your comfort zone and being in the elements, seeing the world and its different cultures. I love going to extreme places and challenging myself in a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual way. An accomplished painter, photographer, model, blogger, traveler, and entrepreneur, she has among many other things appeared on reality TV show Britain's Missing Top Model, and headlined at Toronto's ideaCity conference this past summer.
Morgan, who has used a wheelchair since 2003 when a car accident left her paralyzed, wasn't always planning to follow her bliss to the extent she does now. Originally, she says, I was going to study law because I had the grades, and because I was encouraged to. It wasn't something that I really loved that much, or that I was really that interested in ' I just didn't know what else to do. When I had my accident, and was lying in the hospital, I thought, ÔÇÿI don't want to do a degree in something I don't love.' Life is short, we don't get a lot of time, and I want to do something that really makes me happy.
For Morgan, that meant taking fine art in school; she studied at Goldsmiths Art College in Scotland. Today she works for herself as well as on commission, through photography and in oil paints, charcoal, and pencil, using her creativity to express ideas on the perception of people with disabilities in the media, and especially in the notoriously prejudiced fashion industry. As the founder of the IMperfect campaign, which exists to raise awareness, celebrate diversity, and provide support to people with disabilities who may need it, she keeps very busy. Every day is different, and there's always something new, she says of her day-to-day. There are so many paths I'm following right now, it's very exciting.
Fresh off an adventure to the Himalyas ' If I were you, I would go! ' Morgan's biggest project right now is the Mannequal. She developed this wheelchair for mannequins in order to bring diversity to retail fashion displays. It's very exciting to see how various industries are starting to understand that there is a disabled demographic, and that we should be represented fairly, she says. I'd like the shops to start incorporating the Mannequal: that's my dream. She's also an active advocate and constant campaigner for change in the way people with disabilities are perceived and represented. I've always felt that if disabled people want to see things change, we need to do it ourselves, Morgan explains of her philosophy. We can't just demand change; we have to implement it ourselves somehow. That's what I'd like to consider myself as doing: trying to make change.
Morgan stresses that the pursuit of happiness is the only pursuit; that everyone should do what they want to do, not what they think they should do. Do the things that make you happy, do anything that makes you happy in any form, she encourages. It's so simple. People think so hard and try so hard to do something that's going to be a status symbol, but the most simple and happy and fulfilled people I meet are the people who have just followed the things they loved.
So what's next for Sophie Morgan? The sky is the limit! she laughs. My art, the Mannequal, TV, another adventure ' there's so much. I have no idea, but I know it's going to be good. That's one thing that I learned early on: you can never predict what's going to happen. It's all about what's happening now, really, and getting on with The Now. Do what you love, and make sure you keep doing it. jp