t is with a defiant confidence and wry smile that Mario Galla, who wears a prosthesis, says: “I am a custom piece, I doubt you will find someone like me on every corner”. Without this confidence and a positive outlook, one thing is certain: this Hamburg-native would not be walking down cat-walks for some of fashion’s biggest names.
Mario Galla was born with an underdeveloped right leg and has since the age of 3 been wearing a prosthesis. Despite his handicap he plays football and basketball, lifts weights and looks after his body. After high school, he went to train at NDR (a public radio and television broadcaster) and lived a normal life. That is until he was ‘discovered’ at age 21 in a small Filipino restaurant and take-away. Galla signs a deal with PMA models and shortly after get his first show for Hugo Boss. To follow would be a successful international career in London, Paris and Milan.
But it is not all as simple as it first seemed, Galla having never really felt disabled before was coming to grips with being different in an industry that normally demanded aesthetic perfection. This came to a climax in Paris, where he was discriminated by a potential client who refers to him as a cripple. Galla says, “Beauty isn’t perfection” and has since the Paris incident employed a slightly different strategy when booking his gigs. Galla now only mentions his prosthetic once a job has been confirmed and this strategy seems to be working well!
During the 2011 Berlin Fashion Week, Galla modelled for Michael Michalsky who requested that he wear Bermuda shorts on the cat-walk. This was the first time Galla had shown his prosthetic leg professionally and insists that despite the media attention it received, that it was not intended to be provocative, adding only that he often wears shorts privately. With consequent headlines that read, “Hamburg’s bravest Model” or “The flawed beauty”, many speculated as to the Michalsky’s intentions. Michalsky responds: “I do what I personally consider to be right. If I only listened to what other people advise me to do, I would still be sitting in my home-town at the bus stop waiting on my bus”. A mentality which has served both men well.
Mario Galla is a generally very relaxed person who doesn’t much care whether he is booked in spite or because of his carbon fibre leg. He managed to make the fashion industry more open-minded and conform to him. He has used the media attention to work on several other projects. In September 2011, he released his autobiography entitled “With one leg in the modelling business” and soon thereafter gave his acting debut in the short film by Hakan Can called “Open”. He is also actively involved in social projects as an ambassador for the German federal campaign against discrimination and supports the animal rights organisation, PETA. Despite always being involved in one project or another, Galla has also completed his degree in media studies.
His book is filled with quotes from visionaries such as John F. Kennedy and poet Jean Paul, however one quote resonates particularly with Galla. The quote is from Nam June Paik, the Korean born American artist and founder of Video Art: “Wenn zu Perfekt, liebe Gott böse.”
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