By Nora Hakramaj
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Videographer / director: Adam Gray
Producer: Nora Hakramaj, Ruby Coote
Editor: Beth Angus
Linda Rowe Thomas was just two-years-old when a heater at home exploded next to her and her older sister.
Doctors warned Linda’s mother that due to her third degree burns, she wouldn’t have the chance of a quality of life.
But the designer, who lives in Jacksonville, Arkansas, has proved them wrong, as she now has a successful fashion label and has dressed the likes of WNBA Champion Candice Wiggins for the Golden Globes.
The 48-year-old told Barcroft TV: “The day of the fire I was actually two-years-old so I don’t have any recollection of it.
“It was myself and my six-year-old sister and we were standing next to a heater when it exploded. She passed from smoke inhalation five days later. I really wish I could remember her.
"I received third degree burns to my face and hands.
“My mom said I was always into fashion and I had gotten up that morning and dressed myself in a little fur coat with a hoodie and I jokingly say fashion saved my life because of that coat.
"That was the only thing that was burned and you can actually see lines from the sleeves of the coat and my face was the only thing that was exposed."
Linda lost all of her fingers on her left hand and her face was severely burned. She endured countless surgeries and skin grafts to her hands and face until her late twenties.
But her parents ensured their daughter wasn’t treated any differently and it wasn’t long before her talent for drawing, and fashion, came to light.
Linda said: “I was never treated as though I was a burn survivor. I was never treated as though I had limitations.
“I got into fashion when I was about five. My mom sewed and she was an incredible seamstress.
“I think it was one of her ways of tricking me into getting the mobility back in my hands and once she saw that I really liked sewing, she started to teach me how to do little things.
“My right hand is pretty much functional, the left that’s the one where I kind of adjusted and made things work for me my way.”
After spending years of improving her sewing skills, Linda finally started her own fashion line, Romas by Linda Rowe Thomas.
She said: "My fashion inspiration actually comes from just about anywhere, it could from going to a market and seeing the fabric first, or I’ve got inspiration from sitting on the beach and seeing the sea shells.
“I would say [the style] is classic with contemporary style because I grew up loving Jackie O because I loved the way, even if she was riding a horse she looked very elegant and classy.”
The designer has since had seven shows at New York Fashion Week and seen her clothing being worn by XXX at the Golden Globes and Erica Ash for the BET Awards.
Linda said: “I think the turning point for my fashion was someone seeing it and saying ‘hey, I want to introduce you to a producer for New York Fashion Week’. And so once I did that tho at New York Fashion Week everything just took off!
“Dressing people for the Golden Globes and for some of the red carpet events is really surreal because it was the thing that I dreamed of. I used to make my younger brother and sister pretend to be models on the runway."
But celebrities aren’t Linda’s biggest fans, her children Amari and Zechariah are incredibly proud of their mother.
Amari said: “I have never seen my mom struggle with any activity or any test she has been given. She has always told me how she was raised to believe that ‘can’t’ wasn’t part of her vocabulary and that's something she really tried to enforce in us as well.
“She is so dedicated and she is running around non-stop from the crack of dawn until the sun goes down.
“Every time I have been asked who my hero was, the first person who always comes to my mind is mom, she motivates me in everything I do."
Linda admits that she still deals with stares and nasty comments from strangers, but she has learned to embrace herself.
She said: “I absolutely got reactions from people on the street. You get the ugly words that people say that will always stick with you.
“There are still times that I will catch someone taking a second look or staring but it’s just a part of life now.
“Over the years I have gained more and more self confidence. I learned to actually look at myself in the mirror and love the person staring back at me.
“Knowing that when this accident happened the doctors told my mom that I will probably never have a really good quality of life because of my hands. An yet those hands are doing remarkable things.”