The Human Mannequin: Review

Louise Wedderburn has a rare genetic condition which causes her joints to lock as her muscle turns to bone. Determined to plough on and make something of her life regardless, she wishes to break into the fashion industry. Despite Channel 4’s provocative eye-catching title, The Human Mannequin sympathetically documents Louise’s attempts to break into the fashion industry.

Louise is one of only 700 people in the world to have Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a genetic disease which causes soft tissue to turn into bone, freezing her body permanently into place. Louise’s appearance is gaunt and skeletal, and having grown up in Scotland, life is an obvious struggle, but she admirably refuses to be defined by her illness.

During the programme Louise’s older sister got married and left home. Louise demonstrated that she is an open-minded independent thinker, revealing she’s not fussed about getting married herself. Marriage is merely a social construct, after all.

Viewers witnessed Louise helping out at London Fashion Week, and it was heartening to see her enjoy herself. She also did some work experience at Elle magazine, and impressed the beauty editors with her work ethic. I don’t know how you become the ‘beauty’ editor of something, or indeed what it involves. Trialling lots of shampoo and being able to write about it probably. But shampoo’s just shampoo. Anyway, undeterred by being sent out to do all the jobs no one wants to do and generally being everyone’s tea-bitch, Louise seemed more determined than ever to break into the competitive and image-obsessed fashion industry.

The show took time to demonstrate how Louise’s condition affected her family. Her mother is essentially her round-the-clock carer, even accompanying her during work experience. Now her sister has moved out, Louise is reliant on her mother even more than before.

Finally the audience learns that Louise is finding some success in the volatile fashion universe. She has set up her own blog, and written a number of articles for Elle magazine. No doubt this documentary will have raised her profile, and good luck to her.