Young woman redefines what it means to be a ‘supermodel’

AGOURA HILLS, Calif. — In 2021, the organizers of LA Fashion Week approached Los Angeles-based fashion designer Nicholas Mayfield with an idea.

“And they were like, what do you think about doing a whole fashion show and including amazing people?” Mayfield said.

Mayfield came across an audition video from 18-year-old Tami Eugenio Ferreira. At the end of the video, the young woman, then a high school senior, looked into the camera and said, “Oh, by the way. I have cerebral palsy.” She shrugged her shoulders and added, “So what?”

Mayfield chose her to be one of his models.

“(I am) breaking the mindset of what beauty is,” he said. “I describe Tami as bigger than a model, period.”

In addition to modeling, she’s a recent Calabasas High School graduate, has surfed, is learning to drive a car and also practices yoga.

“And it’s very humbling,” said Ana Paula Ferreira, Tami’s mother. In 2003, Ana Paula Ferreira gave birth to Tami and her identical twin in their native South Africa. Tami’s sister died the next day.

Months later, a pediatrician diagnosed Tami with right-sided hemiplegia cerebral palsy.

“And he looks up,” remembered Ana Paula Ferreira. “And (the doctor) says to me, ‘In all probability, Tami will never sit, walk or talk.’”

As a point of fact, the doctor got that part of the diagnosis wrong. During the interview with Spectrum News, Tami, who was seated next to her mother, suddenly spoke up.

“I remember going to all of my therapists,” she said, in a halting drawl.

After intense speech and physical therapy, she was sitting, walking and talking. She was also dreaming. Her mother remembered when her daughter was a young girl, she looked at her and said, “One day I’m going to make money from my looks.”

When Tami was 12, she packed up her dream and, along with her family, left south Africa for the U.S. They settled in Agoura Hills. And last fall, Mayfield chose her to walk down the runway during LA Fashion Week’s Spring-Summer show.

Mayfield said he chose Tami for her ability, not for her disability.

“We’re all different,” Mayfield said. “So, there’s no ‘dis.’”

Tami hopes to continue a career in modeling. She recently attended LA Fashion Week’s Fall-Winter show as Mayfield’s “plus-one,” wearing an outfit he designed especially for her.