Viktoria Modesta is a name you probably haven’t heard of, yet. But by the looks of things you will. Her ‘music’ video Prototype has already had over two million views on You Tube, most of them likes and she is being championed as well as amply financed by Channel 4 as the face of their ‘Born Risky’ campaign.

With her video debut costing a cool £200,000 to make, the campaign aims to challenge and change people’s ordinary perceptions of disability. So far, a noble endeavour. Who can possibly argue with the fact that society can be ignorant and children especially cruel when they lack the compassion necessary to show kindness to someone who is outwardly different.

That’s where Modesta comes in. Born in Latvia, during the reign of the USSR due to a doctor’s negligence during birth, her hip and leg were dislocated which later led to more suffering owing to improvident corrective procedures that resulted in the young girl having 15 operations by the time she was 12. Growing up, she found society to be closed-minded, ‘…you can’t be a stylish, intelligent person if you’re disabled’ she says referring to her life in Latvia. A similar fate would follow her in London when the family immigrated, leaving her vulnerable to bullying and exclusion and finally resulting in her leaving school at just 14.

Never feeling quite herself with a maimed limb that acted as a social and psychological constraint, by age 20 Modesta finally got her freedom by having her left leg amputated just below the knee. Now at 26 having captured the attention of a wider audience, she is being styled as the world’s ‘first bionic pop artist’. Hmm…

The six-minute long video may take you by surprise, though possibly not for the reasons Channel 4 hopes. There is, as is now customary, an ample display of flesh, sexy posturing, defiant eye-gazing and visual imagery so overloaded with competing themes that it’s enough to leave you feeling dumbfounded. Then there are the lyrics and of course the ‘singing’. Appropriately, ‘pro’ and ‘prototype’ feature repeatedly in the chorus supported by catchy notes like ‘We’re limitless, we’re not confined/It’s our future’. And ‘I ain’t another project, just messing with your logic’.

Admittedly, Modesta’s songwriting is better than her singing, which based on this video can only be described as tolerable. However, I think we are expected to forgive her for this since the real emphasis here is on bionic rather than pop star. This would certainly explain why the final minute of Prototype is dedicated exclusively to seeing Modesta perform various movements with the aid of a black, Tim Burton themed, lethal-looking prosthetic and the words ‘some of us were born to be different’, ‘some of us were born to take risks’ stoically emanating forth.

But instead of sparking a conversation about the stigmatization of disability, the video only seems to succeed in planting a false image of the average disabled person who is likely to have neither the looks nor the financial resources of Modesta to go and get themselves a glittering custom-made prosthetic that they can turn into a fashion statement – especially when costs range from £3,500 to £60,000. This brings me to the bionic aspect, a word that can both mean having electronically or mechanically replaced/enhanced anatomical parts and having ‘extraordinary strength, powers, or capabilities; superhuman’.

It is the superhuman component that is played as the winning card and the main element of the fiction. Modesta has had her fair share of struggles, and being able to compensate for the loss of her leg with a prosthetic can be transformative. But what is so risky, or extraordinary about any of this? What does the video actually show her accomplishing other than a narcissistic, ego-driven lust for vengeance and mass adulation? She says, ‘if you don’t fit in, then don’t fit in’ yet one gets the disappointing impression that not only does she long to fit in but to equally assert her sense of supremacy.

Seeing herself as being ‘…one-hundred per cent… a modern feminist’, another statement I struggle to comprehend, this woman is certainly confident. But why shouldn’t she be? Her disability, if I dare say, is not of the worst kind. Many would even say she has been fortunate. If the idea behind the campaign is to show that a disabled person can be like any other person, then this borders on the moronic. Yet if it is really serious about challenging the roots of our prejudice, then Modesta is the wrong person for this. The video feeds us a heavy dose of fantasy about the particulars of living with a disability. This is like giving Tiny Tim a swanky Swarovski leg prosthetic and thinking all his troubles are over.




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