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How Paulina Porwollik overcame her insecurities through dance

When I attended the 2024 London Fashion Week, I developed a new understanding of the fashion industry, particularly on how it can deeply connect powerful messages to its audience. 

Paulina Porwollik, a model and professional dancer with a congenital limb difference, was among those who graced the runway during Ukrainian fashion designer Tamar Keburia’s “Reflections” show, which, apart from paying tribute to the strength and resilience of contemporary Ukrainian women, also conveyed a powerful message on inclusivity.

Paulina believes that the fashion industry has started to embrace diversity, opening up to all kinds of people regardless of their color, age, gender and abilities. She’s already modeling for big brands. But she hopes that this is not a mere trend that will eventually fade away.

Even though she sees a conscious effort in the fashion industry to elevate diversity, she reveals that her first love is dance, a medium that has allowed her to understand her body, explore her individuality, and was integral to building her confidence.

Dancing her fears away

Paulina was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. She grew up with a limb difference of her left hand and arm. But this was never a hindrance to having a normal childhood, of building great friendships.

It was when she entered puberty that she felt insecure, not only because of her disability, but also due to other factors, including seeing others go out on dates.

Paulina always loved dance, and she turned to it to drown her insecurities.

“Doing dance helped me to push my confidence. It helped me because you embrace yourself, you open yourself up on stage,” she shared.

She applied in a dance school, Erika Klütz Schule, in Hamburg. She learned different dance styles, she trained hard and improved. Eventually, she realized that she wanted to perform on stage. That was when she mustered the courage to leave her homeland and take her chance at the United Kingdom in 2016.

She completed both her Bachelors and Masters of Arts at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, UK. She has been working and collaborating with various institutions and companies such as the Royal Opera House in London, Esplanade — Theatre by the Bay in Singapore, Theater Bremen in Germany, Candoco Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theater, and National Dance Theater Wales.

Along her dance and model career she completed her Masters of Science in Psychology at Northumbria University in Newcastle. She was also working part-time as a student life specialist at Roehampton University, wherein she provides psychological support to students. She worked in multiple inclusive contexts and environments as a facilitator, artist and advocate for enhanced inclusivity and equity.

Being immersed in both the dance and fashion industries which have been putting effort to celebrate diversity, Paulina hopes to be instrumental in creating spaces that are truly inclusive.

“I’m pushing, I am trying. I don’t really give up. I’m a fighter. I was questioned a lot. When I was doing my dance studies, I was questioned a lot — is she going to make it? Here I am.” 

She recognizes the challenges that still need to be overcome not only by society but also by her. And in each effort that she puts out, she encourages and inspires more people to contribute to elevating diversity and inclusivity in our society.

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