“The Bionic Woman”, the 1970s American science fiction adventure television series, centered around a young woman, Jamie Sommers, who suffered a near fatal accident and was rebuilt using bionics. A superhuman, “The Bionic Woman” worked for the American government taking on high risk missions. For any girl growing up at the time, Jamie was an icon, a fictional heroine who allowed girls to believe that they could take on anything. 

Today, the Arab world has its own, real, bionic woman. Thirty-year-old Beirut resident, Rita Esber was born with a congenital amputation and, as a result, does not have a left forearm. Today, Esber is preparing to walk the ramp for Dubai fashion designer Michael Cinco upcoming show and she deserves to be under the spotlight.

“People finally got to see all of me”

The graphic design graduate holds a full-time job at an education management company. She is an achiever, however it has not been an easy journey for her: “My mother passed her strength and determination down to me. In my school days I used to be afraid of meeting new children, or getting outside my comfort zone. Children used to bully me, mocking my missing limb, and that was too harsh for a small girl to take and endure. Because of this, I used to hide my arm from them, fearing that they might get scared and not like me.”  

But none of this stopped her from going on to pursue a Graphic Design degree at university. “[It’s] a Major that requires extreme precision and shuffling between the keyboard and the mouse.  I never gave up, I kept on trying to find ways until I was able to adapt and excel in my studies. I am not a person who believes in giving up,” she says.  

She also never gave up on her dream of receiving a bionic arm, a prosthetic that mimics muscle movement, despite the heavy price tag – an arm costs well over US$50,000. While the thought of a bionic arm was always in the back of her mind, without it, she managed to lead the life of a normal twenty-something, including being an active user of social media. In 2016 she decided to face her biggest childhood fear and post a picture of her missing arm – that was the moment she became one step closer to obtaining her bionic arm. “People finally got to see all of me! They could see my confidence, my belief in myself, my positivity, my determination to succeed, and my ambition to stand out in my career, my plans, and my missions,” says Esber. 

Candle of Hope

Her story became known throughout the region and then last year, she received a call from the Candle of Hope Campaign, a charitable organization that had decided that she would be their first story of hope and they would work with Bionics MENA to ensure that she would finally receive the prosthetic arm she had dreamed of for so long. This led to Esber becoming the region’s first bionic model. As a result of her public profile, she now uses her voice to talk about positivity. 

Esber believes that fashion plays a large role in helping women accept their differences, “Fashion brands that invest in clever research, realize the positive impact that adaptive fashion can make on people of determination. We are all unique. We didn’t choose our imperfections, but with positivity and self-confidence we can turn our weaknesses into strengths.” 

Now, as she begins her journey as the region’s first bionic model, her story looks set to become even more inspirational.         

Inclusivity, Diversity, Courage, Bionic Woman, Rita Esber, Young Arab Model, MENA Region, Lebanon