Jess Quinn is making strides in the fashion & fitness industry, one motivational move at a time. And at just 26-years-old, the boundary-breaking athlete is continuing to redefine the mould, proving beauty comes in many and all forms.
Jess, who was diagnosed with cancer at the youthful and vulnerable age of nine, was forced to amputate her leg in order to save her life. With a positive outlook in all aspects of her life, she’s proving anything really is possible.
Under her belt, Dancing with the Stars, international media coverage, motivational talks and an up-and-coming label list just a few of her impressive accomplishments to date.
The kiwi-born beauty has rallied a quick 187K (and growing) Instagram following and has only grazed the surface when it comes to her potential and career ahead.
But don’t take it from us, take it from the girl herself as she debuts Flightmode’s latest collection and inspires us to be the best version of ourselves just that little bit more.
Can you tell us a little bit about your story and how everything changed for you at the young age of 9?
I was 9 when I was diagnosed with Cancer. I battled for about 6 months through Chemotherapy before the decision was made that the only way to save my life would be to amputate my leg. This was obviously a huge thing to go through at such a young age but I’ve spent my life trying to push all of my limits and not be held back by my adversity. It’s lead me to everything I now do, from modelling to motivational speaking. My goal is to help others understand that adversity is just an obstacle not a road block and that our differences and uniqueness shape us, not seperate us.
What’s been your biggest accomplishment so far?
This year I was given the opportunity to compete in Dancing with the Stars. It was by far the scariest, most physically challenging thing I have ever done and at first. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to be able to dance but I ended up making it to the finale and came away with third place.
What’s been the biggest struggle to date?
Learning to run. I have always pushed myself in the gym but had never been able to run. A few years ago I decided to give it a proper go, I ordered myself a running prosthetic and spent 9 months getting familiar with my new leg. I managed to run about 10 meters inside when I decided to push myself and see if I could run 10km by the end of the year. I worked really hard with a running coach but ended up completely blowing out my good leg. At first I felt defeated but realised it was never about the distance, it was about seeing if I could achieve something (running) that I thought was physically impossible for me.
Your confidence and ability to always look on the bright side inspires hundreds of thousands of girls globally, how do you do it?
Honestly, it’s just always been the attitude I have had. I remember when I was sick at the age of 9 people would always say how positive I was and to be honest I just thought it was a normal response. I’ve grown up with really positive parents so I think it was in my nature but it’s definitely something that saved me. Mindset is huge, if you can go into everything with a positive outlook I believe you’ll come out a lot better off. And I’m not saying positive people don’t have negative thoughts or bad days, I assure you I do, I just choose to not let them control my life. Have a bad day, be sad, be mad, feel all of the emotions, just don’t unpack and live there. This life is far too short to live it negatively.
At what point/ how did your Instagram following start to really gain traction?
I did a photoshoot 2 years ago that went viral. A friend of mine and I decided to do a cool shoot with my running blade prosthetic and in my mind I wanted to send some images to a modelling agency as I had a dream of using people like myself, with real differences, in advertising and editorials in the hopes that people would see that and feel represented. At the time, all I saw in fashion and beauty advertising was one cookie cutter mould of perfection and I didn’t want another generation to grow up believing that if they didn’t fit that then they weren’t beautiful. I posted the shoot on my instagram to my then 1000 followers, it ended up going completely viral. I got about 10,000 followers over night which quickly grew to a now 180,000+ following
How do you/have you had to handle people’s negative comments, looks, etc?
I’ve been really lucky to have always had amazing love and support. I grew up with people staring and this still happens on the daily. It used to effect me a lot but I came to realise that people aren’t staring in a malicious way, they’re just interested.
How has your fitness journey evolved?
Hugely! Fitness for me has always been away to become able. I found the gym later in high school when I was struggling in team sports, I found a place where I could compete only with myself and find new ways of doing things I didn’t know I’d be able to do. So I’ve always trained hard but for me it’s about becoming able. Recently I’ve begun to slow down a little bit because after such a massive year, my body is needing a break physically but it’s also been a journey to learn that that’s ok too.
What have you learnt about yourself through fitness?
I’ve learnt that I am literally capable of anything I put my mind to. I may do it differently, it may take me a little longer but with the right attitude I’ll get there.
How often do you work out and what are your favourite types of workouts?
Currently not at all while I take a much needed rest but usually 6 days a week. Boxing is by far my favourite way to move my body. I have always loved boxing, I don’t know why but I love learning the skill as well as it being a great sweat up. I change between my everyday leg and my blade depending on the activity. If I’m doing something where I need to be stable I wear my everyday leg but if I need a bit more movement or agility I’ll wear my blade.
Fave activewear brands?
To be honest, I just love activewear. But Flight Mode, P.E nation and a good Champion hoodie are probably my favourites.
Biggest learning from Dancing With The Stars?
If it scares you, it’s probably something you should do.
I initially said no to doing the show because the thought of learning to dance on live TV in front of a million people was frightening but it was the best experience of my life.
What’s next for you?
2019 is shaping up very nicely. I have a few exciting projects like my label BE. Your Label which is soon to launch but my main focus next year along with my motivational speaking is to help change peoples mindset on what beauty really is. I recently gave a TED talk on our unachievable pursuit of perfection and how photoshopping is harming us. I want to work with as many brands as I can (both as a model and an advocate) to show a diverse representation of beauty. Because that’s reality and at the end of the day the consumer wants to be able to see themselves in the product, they want to feel good both buying it and wearing it and I believe if we stop promoting a beauty that doesn’t even exist then people will begin to see how beautiful they really are, as they are.