image-2A Simon Fraser University student is hoping she’ll be chosen as the new face of a popular perfume – and break ground as one of the world’s first quadriplegic models in the process. 

Jessica Kruger is one of hundreds of Canadian women vying to become the face of Lise Watier’s “Something Sweet” perfume.

“It would be incredible,” Kruger says. The fourth-year SFU student sits in third place out of more than 400 hopefuls with one week to go until voting ends.

Aspiring model Jessica Kruger is also the only female member of B.C.’s provincial co-ed wheelchair rugby team.

The woman to accumulate the most votes will become the star of the cosmetic brand’s newest advertising campaign.

“It was totally just something I was doing for fun to begin with, and then it sort of started to spread around my Facebook,” she says. “I realized how excited people were by the idea.”

Kruger is now among them. She wants to become the winner of the contest to show that women in wheelchairs are just as beautiful as the models in magazines.

“I think the reality is that when somebody sees somebody in a wheelchair, they’ll stop and stare,” she says. ”The idea is just to open that door to everybody and help erase the stigma that’s around people with disabilities.”

She became quadriplegic five years ago, after she fell two storeys from a ladder working for a painting company. Though she can use both of her arms, the area of her spine that was damaged technically rendered Kruger quadriplegic.

The English literature major recalls being concerned with how people would perceive her after she became confined to a wheelchair.

“I didn’t really understand what was happening to me,” she recalled. It wasn’t until three years after the accident, when Kruger became reacquainted with her normal, daily life, that “I sort of realized what this meant long-term…I definitely struggled with that.”

She says she’s now just as happy as she’s ever been, and though some doors were closed after her accident, Kruger says her wheelchair is helping her pursue new opportunities.

In addition to being in the running for the competition, the tough 20-year-old plays on B.C.’s co-ed wheelchair rugby team.

“I just love it, it’s full contact,” she says. “Your chair is built with big metal plates around it so your chairs can smash into each other.”

She’s the team’s only female, and Canada’s youngest female player. Kruger figures if she can excel in a sport normally reserved for rough-and-tough able-bodied men, she can become a model.

“I certainly have never seen a quadriplegic model,” she says. “I know there are other women out there that are trying to do it. The more the merrier. Let’s get out message out there and spread it to the world.”

When asked about being another kind of model – a role model – she answers modestly.

“That’s a tough question. I would like to say that I aspire to be a role model, especially for women that are recently injured or even men,” she says.

“If they’re struggling to find the good in their accident I hope that they can see what I’ve done with my life and understand that this is really just the beginning of a brand new, exciting adventure.”

And Kruger has a good shot of embarking on a new adventure of her own.

Voting for Lise Watier’s “Something Sweet” competition ends June 8.

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