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'Leave A Legacy': Model In Wheelchair Takes Charge Of Fashion Show Runway

DENVER (CBS4) - Fashion history was made on the Colorado runway at this year's Denver Fashion Week, thanks to a courageous model and talented designer.

"I'm still pinching myself," Kate Nelson, a model, said. "This is so exciting!"

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CBS4's Kelly Werthmann interviews Kate Nelson. (credit: CBS)

Inside the Forney Transportation Museum on Sunday, Kate couldn't stop smiling as she had her hair and makeup done by a team of professionals. She was getting all glamorized before heading down the runway, as the show's first-ever model in a wheelchair.

"This is such a big leap from accounting," she said with a laugh, "my normal career."

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(credit: CBS)

Kate took a leap of faith answering the fashion show's model call earlier this year. She told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann she did so for two reasons – the first is to change the perspective of people in chairs.

"I want people to see me and say, 'If she can do it, I can do it,'" Kate said.

The other reason, Kate explained, is to make her family proud.

"It's hard because it's just me now," she said.

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(credit: CBS)

In 1979, when Kate was just two years old, a drunk driver hit her family's car. The crash killed Kate's dad and brother, and left her paralyzed from the waist down. Then, just last year, Kate's mom lost her battle with cancer.

"I want to leave a legacy like she did," Kate said tearfully.

To keep her family close as she courageously tries something new, Kate added her late mother's ring to her runway look.

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(credit: Kate Nelson)

"Since it's a bridal gown," Kate said of the dress designed just for her, "[the ring] is a little something borrowed and kind of that feeling that my mom is here."

Filled with a mix of emotions, the time arrived for Kate to line up with the other models. As the lights came down and the music turned up, it was Kate's turn to make her runway debut.

"I couldn't stop smiling," Kate said of her first trip around the runway. "Everyone there to support me, it was so exciting. I didn't trip, so that's a highlight!"

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(credit: CBS)

With every smile, cheer and applause from the crown, it showed Kate she wasn't alone.

"I don't have my mom and dad and brother anymore, but they're my family," Kate said of the guests and friends who showed up to support her. "That meant the world."

Kate gives a lot of credit to designer Maggie Burns of Marie-Margot Couture for making her fashion dreams come true. Maggie created a beautiful dress to fit Kate's unique needs, and it's Kate's hope that other designers don't shy away from doing the same.

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(credit: CBS)

"I'm hoping more designers will see [Maggie] had no background at all in adaptive fashion and all it took was just listening to me for what I needed," Kate said. "She made it fun and nailed it."

Wearing a self-designed jacket with glittery letters that read "Roll Model," Kate said plans on working with the Denver Fashion Week team in hopes of getting more differently-abled models in future shows.

"I hope hearing my story it helps someone else going through something really tough," Kate said. "That's the whole point of this for me."

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