Circe Fuller, 25, aspired to be model, clothing designer

February 23, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Circe Fuller wanted to be a model. She wanted to grace runways and stages dressed in the sleek, high-fashion clothes that were all the rage. And if she couldn't become a model, she hTC wanted to design the clothes that women in wheelchairs -- like her -- wore.

Her nights were spent dreaming of modeling, and during the day she often sketched clothing for women who use wheelchairs -- a market she felt clothiers ignored.

"She always thought this [modeling] was the field she wanted to get into," said Patricia Pitts, a longtime friend. "She knew she'd be a good model, too."

Miss Fuller (her first name is pronounced sir-sea) died Mondayof sepsis poisoning at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was 25, and had used a wheelchair since early childhood because she had spina bifida, a birth defect characterized by incomplete closure of the spinal column.

For the last few years, Miss Fuller's goal was to become the first high-fashion supermodel in a wheelchair.

She sent glamour pictures to numerous East Coast modeling agencies and studios in hopes of landing a job. She was pretty, with smooth, unblemished skin.

And with each head shot she sent, she wrote an accompanying note describing her condition.

"She didn't even think of the wheelchair as being a problem because we always taught her not to let anything stop her from doing what she wanted to do," said her mother, Debra Fuller of Baltimore.

"She thought of her handicap not as a disability, just an inconvenience. She said, 'I want to be the first wheelchair model.' She had so much confidence."

She received letters from agencies that said she was not what they were looking for. She considered cutting her hair -- a new look, she thought, would improve her chances.

"She was a little disappointed, but she wasn't upset about it because she knew she would do it eventually," her mother said. "She kept on sending pictures to other studios."

A native of Baltimore, Miss Fuller graduated from Northern High School in 1990, attended Baltimore City Community College and was enrolled at Dundalk Community College.

For the last four years, she had lived alone in a handicapped-accessible apartment in the McCulloh Homes +V housing development in West Baltimore.

Friends and family said she talked frequently on the phone and listened to music by Toni Braxton and Boyz II Men.

"She was always doing something, always on the go, always running her mouth and having a good time," said Gloria Wright, a friend and neighbor. "She had a lot of energy, endless energy."

Her mother didn't want her to move from the family home, but once she turned 21, Miss Fuller was determined to live on her own.

"I said, 'Circe, you can't move out,' and she said, 'Why can't I?' " her mother recalled. "I said, 'How will ' and she said, 'I can cook, I can clean and I can care for myself,' and moved out."

"It didn't matter to me if she was in a wheelchair or not, I just didn't want my daughter to move out," her mother said.

Miss Fuller enjoyed writing, shopping and attending concerts, friends said.

In recent years, she sketched flattering clothing for women with disabilities that could conceal equipment such as colostomy bags, which Miss Fuller wore and felt made unsightly bulges in her clothes.

"She was always high-style and looking good. She was very meticulous about her clothing so everything had to be looking just right," Ms. Wright said. "She thought that just because you were in a wheelchair didn't mean that you couldn't look good, too."

Her mother said that Miss Fuller also frequently gave her fashion tips. "She just tried to dress everybody," she said. "She'd comment on my hair and clothes all of the time. She didn't like me in black, so I'm wearing white to the funeral. She'd probably like that."

Services were held yesterday.

She is also survived by her father, Larry Burrow; a brother, David Fuller; a sister, Towanda Burrow; an uncle, Stephen Smith; and six aunts, Denise Brickus, Daphne Smith, Veronica Burrow, Audrey Hawkins, Ronade Alexander and Marcia Ingram. All are of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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