BOULDER, Colo. — You would never know it looking at her photos, but Lexie Bader wasn't always confident or popular.
"I got super bullied in high school," Bader said.
It's what drew her to modeling — she wanted to learn about fashion and build her self-esteem.
"It helped with feeling more confident, standing up to people, not caring what people would think about you," Bader said.
It also helped her sign with a modeling agency at 16.
But months into her budding career, a snowboarding accident shattered her foot. What followed would challenge her resilience and strength.
"When my big toe was fused, it was super painful on the end, so they took out that screw and after that is when I started showering and I was like, 'Why is my leg purple?' Then it started getting really painful and then I was diagnosed with CRPS," Bader said.
CRPS, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, is a painful and rare nerve disease that often effects an arm or leg following trauma. There is no cure and at the age of 22, Bader faced a gut-wrenching decision.
"They told me I can’t get more surgery and 'You’ll probably be in pain for the rest of your life and there’s nothing we can do to help you,'" Bader said. "I was like, 'Why don’t you just cut off my foot if it’s not working?'"
Doctors were hesitant, but in 2019 agreed to amputate her leg from the knee down.
She said there was never a question in her mind about the surgery.
Finally pain-free, Bader jumped back into life, relearning to walk, climb, and even longboard. A year into her recovery, the pain returned, this time in her other foot.
"Even if my CRPS goes away, I still need more surgery that will cause a plank foot and it doesn’t even matter about the CRPS at this point. If we get rid of the CRPS, I still need more surgery that will not allow me to do anything. So, that’s how I decided to do my other leg," Bader said.
Today, the 23-year-old is rebuilding her life as a double amputee and redefining the modeling world.
"For me, I want to do runway and keep modeling because I want to show that everyone’s beautiful," Bader said.
In August, just nine months after doctors amputated her right leg, she walked in Denver's Fashion Week, an accomplishment bordering on miraculous.
"I was wearing the running blades and I felt like a cyborg. It was dope and everyone was cheering and I was like, 'Yeah this is sick,'" Bader said.
She's done it all with a very proud boyfriend by her side.
"I admire her. I like her a lot, obviously," said Jackson Egan.
An industry that taught Bader about confidence is now learning from her about inclusion.
"People need to see that. People need to see the difference that modeling is now becoming more diverse," Bader said.
She is a true trailblazer, teaching girls everywhere what beauty really is.
In order to get back to her active lifestyle, Bader needs special prosthetics. She has set up a GoFundMe page.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.