AURORA, Colo. -- An Aurora mother who was disfigured as a child, and kept her leg hidden for 22 years, has just been named as an ambassador for Models of Diversity.
Claudina Vega has decided to embrace her leg and show it to the world, hoping to be a role model to kids who are different like she was.
Claudina was just 5 years old when the accident happened.
“All I just remember hearing was my mom saying, ‘The brakes don't work my girls,’” she said.
Her mother’s truck veered off the side of a Mexican road and flipped multiple times going down a hill.
“My older sister was hanging from a tree,” Vega said.
A loose machete nearly severed Vega's leg in the crash. Doctors wanted to amputate it, but her grandfather wouldn’t allow it.
Eventually, Vega got help from a doctor at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
“He really changed my life, and he saved my leg, and I’m so thankful for him,” she said.
But, it was a tough road. She had about 20 surgeries and kept her leg hidden from her friends.
“I didn't like it at all. I wanted to be like everybody else,” Vega said.
She wore clothes to cover it up, and made up excuses to her friends. But motherhood and her 4-year-old son challenged her.
“I’m like oh my gosh, this little 4 year old, how am I going to teach him not to be afraid, when I’m afraid to show this is how I am?” she said.
She decided to take action. She saw an ad on Facebook for Models of Diversity and she reached out. She went to Ginny Haupert Photography for a photo shoot.
Haupert was touched by her story.
“To carry a weight and a burden, feeling like she’s not good enough or scared of the way she looks for so long, it really got to me. It really broke my heart. I wanted more than anything to make her feel like the most beautiful person in the world,” she said.
Haupert took some amazing photographs and it was a powerful experience. Vega showed off the leg that she had spent decades hiding, and she felt free.
“I love my leg now,” Vega said.
To top things off, Vega was named ambassador for Models of Diversity and hopes to share her message with others.
“Don't hide it anymore. We are all different,” she said.
As an ambassador, she will advocate for the importance of diversity in fashion and the inclusion of people who may look a little bit different, like her.