By Jewel Connelly, Communications Specialist
On Sept. 15, 2018, “something really powerful” happened in the life of Samir Dailey. He lost both legs above the knee when he was struck by a train. Two days before the five-year anniversary of his accident, the 28-year-old walked in his first New York Fashion Week as part of Runway of Dreams Foundation’s A Fashion Revolution – a symbolic victory lap of sorts. Reassured by the belief that the accident occurred for a purpose bigger than himself, Samir has chosen not to lament what he lost but rather embrace the fact that he’s here for a reason.
After fighting resistance from his insurance company to get quality prostheses, Samir received his legs Aug. 21, 2019, and began physical therapy. Standing up and walking just a year after the accident defied the five-year timeline the doctors had predicted and, even after COVID-19 halted everything, Samir continued to push forward with his own progress. “I have a lot of people who depend on me and look up to me, like my little sister and brothers,” he said. “I knew, if I were to just take that hit and lay down that day, I would have hurt a lot of people. I believe God allowed that to happen to me and it allowed me to connect with people who I probably never would have come in contact with.” Overcoming so much in such a short period, he was even given the nickname “Samiracle” because of how rapidly he was healing.
Samir was introduced to Runway of Dreams a few years ago by his prosthetist at Hanger Clinic. However, the timeline didn’t work for him to participate until this year. The runway show is an annual event which helps achieve the foundation’s mission of empowering people with disabilities to have confidence and self-expression through inclusion in fashion and beauty. The 2023 show featured a variety of adaptive and universally designed apparel, footwear and products, including Zappos Adaptive, which Samir wore on the runway.
Corresponding with a significant anniversary, walking in the show is especially meaningful to Samir. “I feel really blessed. I was told I wasn’t going to be able to do this, and now I’m walking in front of so many people,” Samir shared. “It’s really powerful that this is something I’ve always wanted to do and I walked in New York Fashion Week as this newer version of myself – Samir 2.0.” Because he has reached a place of acceptance of what happened, he hopes he can inspire others to embrace their own physical transformation. “I’m doing this not only for me but so other people can see me and say, “I could see myself on a runway,’” he continued. “I can be differently abled and also be on a runway, so I feel powerful. I’m a voice for people who may not have as bold a personality as I have.”
Further solidifying his belief, Samir says it’s no coincidence that his interests in design and motivational speaking align with his life now as a bilateral amputee. Prior to the accident, he was already designing tactical clothing with zippers, pockets and waterproof materials, and now he makes clothes himself. With a lack of adaptive clothing options, Samir has struggled with issues such as his pants ripping from the socket and is now able to create the stylish, adaptive clothing he needs. Even working as a high-risk authenticator for The RealReal, a company specializing in luxury resale, has been beneficial by allowing Samir to touch and see a variety of items made of quality materials. “I always try to remember what I’ve seen and collect information because it could be really good materials to reinforce adaptive clothing,” he said.
Having to advocate for himself, from prostheses to making sure he receives proper treatment, has demonstrated Samir’s resilience and contributed greatly to his tremendous progress. Even though it’s hard, he encourages other amputees to press on and realize that, while they may feel bad about their situation now, it’s not going to be bad forever. “It’s not an overnight thing; it’s an every night thing,” Samir said. “Allow yourself to feel, but don’t stop trying. Don’t be afraid to fail. When physical therapy was shut down, I had two options. I was either going to sit in the house and pack on more weight and move backwards with my mobility, or I was going to have to go outside and fall a little bit to figure it out. It’s OK to fall; it’s OK to fail. It’s OK to be frustrated. It’s OK to be sad because it’s realistic.”
Although the trip down the runway only lasted a couple of minutes, the significance of that moment because of all it took to get there will remain. Beyond modeling clothes, Samir hopes his visual will create a ripple effect of inspiration and help others get just a little bit closer to feeling like themselves again. “When my accident happened I felt like I lost everything, but that was not the case and I learned that over time,” he shared. “I lost my legs, but that didn’t take my personality away, that didn’t take my ideas away. It didn’t take my drive or my spirit away. I want to let others know, if something happens to you or you had to go through a visible change, that doesn’t change who you are.”