Be prepared to be INSPIRED! This Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers posting is all about a woman from Winnipeg, Manitoba who is a leader in the field of inspiring others with disabilities. She is this small package of a girl, but with a Big Heart, and a HUGE IMPACT on EMPOWERING others. She is all about BREAKING BARRIERS! This is PART 1 of a 2 PART series I created this past June on Pinups and Breaking Barriers.

I should mention that I know some people are not a fan of the word “disability”. I personally asked Crystal is she was okay with the term – as this posting is more about her being “ABLED” then Disabled. She completely signed off on it.


winnipeg disabled model photoshoot

I’d like you to meet Crystal Rondeau, a 29 year old “ball of fire” – and my Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers for the day.

That is me, posing next to Crystal and was taken after the shoot was done.

I want to help in telling Crystal’s story. There’s a bit of history, as well as how she accepts and overcomes so many daily challenges.

Winston Churchill was known as an inspiring man who “would not be defeated”. Crystal is a female version of that mould.


inspiring manitoba disabled pinup model

Crystal has Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, which she has had since about 2 years old.

Her days can be tough, as she is confined to a wheelchair or bed, and needs a ventilator to assist her in breathing.

She has very limited mobility, but can move her fingers somewhat. She has 3 people that work around the clock to assist her in her daily life.

As you can see – a GOOD DAY for Crystal would be a nightmare for a me. How she rises to each daily challenge is part of her inspirational message.


barrier disability

BARRIER #1 – The Step

The above is a rather mundane photo of a 6 inch step outside the Avenue Photography Studio in Winnipeg, where this photo shoot took place. At the top is a normal sized door.

However this small step and doorway almost derailed the shoot. You can see how a “run of the mill” step, is a HUGE BARRIER for someone like Crystal.

For people with normal mobility, this wouldn’t even occupy a moment of time in one’s thoughts.

For this photo shoot, we had to ensure that special ramps were available so that Crystal would be able to get into the studio with her wheelchair, which happens to weigh several hundred pounds.

S-M-A-S-H !!! With the help of some of Crystal’s assistants, we were able to break this barrier. Crystal remained positive throughout!

Thanks to Rob Dearden from Avenue Photography Studio for being on scene and assisting me in taking off one of the doors so Crystal could comfortably get in the studio.


disability model transportation wpg

With a specially designed Van and ramp system, our Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers Session was starting to unfold.

These ladies were instrumental in getting Crystal through this first hurdle.

As you can see – Crystal is not just in a regular wheelchair.

She has a lot of equipment attached to help her breathe and monitor her. This adds bulk and weight which can be a barrier as well.


winnipeg wheelchair model pinup photography


retro converse runners


One of the “pre-shoot” considerations and potential Barriers, was the overall styling of Crystal for a Pinup Shoot, as she could not dress or style herself.

After several discussions I learned that Crystal’s sister – Cherisse Rondeau had some experience in Vintage Hairstyling. She also could do makeup and had an appropriate outfit.

S-M-A-S-H!! Another barrier gone. The Vintage Styling for this Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers shoot was absolutely “Pinup Perfect”!

Vintage Red Lips – Long eyelashes – Victory Rolls – Hair Scarf – Retro top/Jeans/Runners – all made for the perfect “look”.

Though Crystal may need the assistance of others for certain activities – the fact that she is participating in these unique activities – is inspiring in itself.


Wheelchair PINUP MODEL  – EMPHASIZES  – “ABILITY” in Disability

group photography portrait winnipeg

The “A-TEAM”.

Barrier #4 – Taking breaks as Crystal required medication during the shoot.  *  Barrier #5 – Posing and Props for Crystal.

S-M-A-S-H !! The A-TEAM was instrumental in defeating BARRIERS #4 and #5.

Meet Amber Marlene Smith (left) – who is one of Crystal’s caring Personal Support Workers. She stepped in at the appropriate times to administer Crystal’s required medications.

Meet Peter Max and Cris Chaboyer. They are some of Crystal’s amazing friends – who came by the shoot to assist in moving Crystal around for various poses and passing props around for a more efficient shoot.

Crystal’s Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers photo shoot is “kicking butt” in all the right places.


winnipeg pinup elvis wheelchair model

pinup disability portrait steinbach

What’s a Pinup shot without Elvis? You also need that retro record player right?

All the PROPS for the Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers shoot were provided by my studio for this shoot. It’s all part of a Huge inventory I maintain for any pinup client.

The challenge for me as a photographer, was to come up with poses that Crystal was able to perform – and still make it look Professional.

Crystal assisted me in SMASHING the Posing Barriers by directing me very succinctly as to what she could and couldn’t do. 

She was up for trying a number of different poses and I have to say – “She’s so darn photogenic”!


manitoba disabled model breaking barriers

This was a trickier pose as Crystal has limited mobility with her hands and fingers.

She was “game” to try anything and so we assisted her in this cool Pinup Pose.

I know from following Crystal’s Online FB Story – Crystal Lee – My Uncensored Life – and her personal page – that she is trying to be involved in the “dating scene”.

It’s hard enough as a person with regular mobility to try and meet new people – so for Crystal this is just one more INSPIRATIONAL Activity we all can learn from.

I thought this pose would be a fun way to showcase Crystal’s dating scene – in a Vintage Pinup theme. That magazine is authentic and printed in July of 1953.


pinup model breaking disability barriers

summer pinup ice cream image

I interviewed Crystal after the photo shoot to get a more personal “picture” of this Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers “STAR”.

It’s her POSITIVE ATTITUDE that drives her. She said, “I’m disabled – so what? It doesn’t have to stop you or define you.” How awesome is that?

I know I’ve had those “Down Days” where life gets the better of you. But my hurdles seem small compared to Crystal’s daily challenges.

She just doesn’t Smash Barriers – she also Leaps Over Tall Buildings!


winnipeg rockabilly disability model

Went in a different direction with this shot. No classic Pinup Pose here.

Wanted a more “quiet look” with Crystal gazing in the “looking glass”.

When Crystal looks in the mirror, she sees a “Lioness” that can Conquer The World!

I see true Inspiration and a women that radiates Empowerment!


rockabilly winnipeg disability photo shoot

What says COOL, more than Tattoos – Sunglasses – Converse Runners – Victory Rolls – and Elvis?

Got them all in this fun shot of Crystal in her Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers session.

I know myself, its easy at times to take for granted – the little things in life, as well as the people in your life. Especially when life is relatively smooth.

This is a luxury Crystal does not have. But it also means she takes Nothing For Granted.

She lives each day to the fullest – which is something I felt inspired to do after this photo shoot.


manitoba pinup gaming photographer

Here’s another example of how Crystal was able to pose perfectly, by holding the game cards for this shot.

This would be called a Vintage “GAMER” as opposed to today’s online “gamer”.

Retro kitchen table and Perry Mason game also part of my Prop Stash.

Little known fact – Perry Mason is in my All-Time Top 5 TV Series Shows.


winnipeg disabled pinup model published

This is the “icing on the cake” from our Pinup Model Breaking Disability Barriers photo shoot.

This photo from our session was PUBLISHED in the November issue of Pinup Life Magazine – and Crystal is the COVER GIRL!

She also has multiple images from our session inside the magazine.

To anyone reading this posting – I hope you come away from it feeling INSPIRED…

and with a “Shot of Confidence” that ANYONE can Achieve Their Goals – and Beyond!

To see more of our Pinup or Vintage Sessions, check out some of these links in my blog or visit my blog.     Link 1     Link 2     Link 3     Link 4

Stay tune to my FB Page (LIKE IT!) to get links to more Blog postings….such as PART 2 of the BREAKING BARRIERS Pinup Series.

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Internationally Published Photographer will capture your Magazine Quallty images.

Serving the Winnipeg, Steinbach areas.

Main studio in Ste.Anne (20 mins from Wpg). Studios also available in Wpg. & Steinbach. Outdoor sessions in any locale. Professional equipment only.

Specialists in creating Dynamic Eye-Popping Images in: Pinup, Boudoir, Classic Hollywood, Portraits, Engagements, Sports, Graduation, Commercial/Event & Bachelorette Parties.  

We offer BOTH Vintage Styled and Modern Styled Sessions.

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