Nine-year-old girl with muscular dystrophy to strut her stuff at Bristol Fashion Show

  • Watch Carmela's chat with our presenters.

A nine-year-old girl with a rare form of muscular dystrophy says she loves the adrenaline of modelling on the catwalk.

Carmela Chillery-Watson will walk the runway at the Bristol Fashion Show on Sunday 19 November, adding that she finds it "very easy" to strut in front of the crowds.

Carmela has LMNA congenital muscular dystrophy, a muscle-wasting condition which affects her movement, heart and lungs. She was diagnosed in 2017 aged three.

But she hasn't let that stop her and has been appearing at the fashion show since the age of five, as well as taking part in several fundraising challenges for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

Carmela, from Devizes, Wiltshire, said modelling on the catwalk is one of her dreams.

"I'm really excited because it helps my self-esteem, it helps me feel like me. When I walk down the catwalk, my face is beaming when everyone claps. I love all the outfits - they're always gorgeous.

"We have tested one outfit already. It has a fairy-type skirt with a gymnastic-type top, with lots of sparkles and glitter and lovely colours."

The nine-year-old's a seasoned pro at Bristol Fashion Show and she explained why she thought it important to return each year, in aid of charity.

"I've done this catwalk twice already and I hope to achieve that it will help other people with disabilities because sometimes they want to do modelling like me and they might be told 'no'.

"My goal is to hopefully inspire them and show them that yes, they can do whatever they want to do."

Despite her positive outlook, Carmela admits that her condition means some days are easier than others.

She added: "It's hard, I do get lots of aches and pains. Some days are nice and easy, I feel very bright and then some days I get a bit of pain but it comes and goes, and the worst days are when the pain's there all day long.

"Some days I want to go on this Jungle Gym at school and I can't do it, and even if I could, people won't let me. It's hard, but there are some things I can do and I can have so much fun."

Carmela’s mother, Lucy Chillery-Watson, 47, said: "I'm immensely proud. She's only nine and she's showing thousands of children that you can do anything you put your mind to, with a bit of bravery and courage.

"She doesn't like the word 'can't', which is great. She's inspired so many children wherever she goes so I'm a very proud mummy."

Sunday’s event will be Carmela's third time on the catwalk in Bristol and she added: "Not to brag, but it’s very easy for me – I don’t get nervous."

"[She] laps up all the attention." added Mum.

Carmela will be walking down the catwalk supported by her walking frame and accompanied by her assistance dog Tinker, a four-year-old toy poodle who will be sporting an orange tutu.

“I’m hoping they will do some accessible designs,” Carmela said. "If they do, I would like to just kind of express them and make sure that other people from three-year-olds to the elderly can have this accessible fashion.”

A portion of the ticket sales from the show will be donated to Cure4Carmela, a Muscular Dystrophy UK Family Fund, which raises donations to fund research into muscle-wasting and weakening conditions.

Carmela, said her symptoms vary each day: “Some days are hard and I can’t do anything, some days are super easy and [I am] bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” she said.

“But then some of the days are kind of medium, sometimes it hurts and then it goes away and then it hurts and goes away. It does get a bit heavy but most of the time, I just carry on with it.”

Carmela's condition affects “one in a million babies”, Ms Chillery-Watson said. Her daughter will eventually lose the ability to walk and need to use a wheelchair full-time.

“Over time as she gets into the teenage years, she will lose further muscle weakness because they’re growing and getting heavier,” she said.

“It makes anything physical very challenging, so like getting dressed, getting on and off the floor or walking upstairs.”

Since her diagnosis, Carmela and her family have been fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy UK, the leading charity for the condition which supports more than 110,000 people in the UK living with one of the 60 types of the disease.

The family have raised more than £400,000 for the charity and Carmela was presented with a BCyA (British Citizen Youth Award) Medal of Honour in October for making a positive impact on her community and wider society. To find out more, visit the Cure4Carmela website.