Posts Tagged ‘ Down syndrome model ’

A Teen With Down Syndrome Models For Wet Seal: A Start, Not An End

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Karrie Brown, 17, of Collinsville, IL, recently did a modeling shoot for Wet Seal. This wouldn’t be headline-making, except she landed it through social media. Also, she has Down syndrome.

When I first saw the photos of the shoot over at, I felt happy that another young person with special needs was appearing in an ad. The story started on Karrie’s Facebook page. A note posted read, “Karrie has Down syndrome, but she doesn’t let that stop her from following her dreams, which is to be a model. We recently found out that Wet Seal has started carrying plus-size clothing, which happens to be a great fit and fashion for girls with Down syndrome. Wet seal if you are listening, ‘Karrie fits in while standing out!’ and that’s directly from your mission statement.”

The message made its way to the Wet Seal powers-that-be, who promised “something special” if Karrie’s page got 10,000 likes by the end of the week. Brown got 14,000—and a photo shoot in L.A., with the company treating for flights, a hotel, a new wardrobe and a trip to Disneyland. All this is wonderful for Karrie, an aspiring model. But I think people are getting the wrong idea. A lot of the articles about this gushed about Karrie’s dreams coming true. Buzzfeed called her “adorable,” a patronizing description. Only a few, including ABC News, reported that Karrie’s photo shoot is set to be released on Wet Seal’s website and social channels in coming weeks. It was as if the actual ads themselves were not a big deal.

Companies placing kids and teens with special needs in ads isn’t exactly a trend, but it’s happening more and more. Last year, beautiful Valentina Guerrero—who also has DS—was chosen as the face of a swimwear line. Target, Nordstrom’s and Toys ‘R Us have also featured children with Down syndrome in their ads as well. Whether or not companies are doing this to get  attention is besides the point; this is what companies do, draw attention to themselves. It isn’t “exploiting” kids with special needs, as some naysayers have claimed, any more than using cute, attractive, photogenic kids without disabilities in ads is. Actually, it’s equalizing.

Karrie’s shoot was surely quite the thrill. But this is a young woman who wants to be a model. People should be talking about how this could be the start of her career. People should be talking about how Karrie will fit right in with all the other pretty young women on Wet Seal’s site. People should be talking about whether Karrie could be the first young woman with Down syndrome tapped by a major modeling agency. It’s belittling to say that her “dreams” came true with the photo shoot, because she is capable of achieving so much more.

Think about it this way: If Karrie were any young, aspiring model who happened to have caught Wet Seal’s attention through a Facebook campaign, would everyone be saying that the photo shoot itself had fulfilled her dreams? No, they wouldn’t. I’m thrilled this happened for Karrie, but I have higher hopes about where it could lead. We all should.

Photo: Screen grab, NewsAtUK video

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A Baby With Down Syndrome Becomes A Supermodel: “My Daughter Is Not Exploited” Says Her Mom

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Valentina Guerrero, a 10-month old from Miami who has Down syndrome, is the new face of Dolores Cortés DC kids’ swimwear line. The little girl’s story has been sweeping the web since Friday, when Cortés strolled down the catwalk of her fashion show holding Valentina in her arms. The little girl is also on the cover of the company’s new catalog.

10 percent of proceeds from the catalog will go to the Down Syndrome Association of Miami

This is all major news, because Valentina is said to be the first child with Down syndrome (and probably any disabilities) chosen to be the face of a major fashion company. Which actually shouldn’t be news, given that she has an exceptionally adorable face. It’s no surprise that mom Cecilia Elizalde—a TV host and producer—has been flooded with calls from agents.

You can see where Valentina gets her gorgeous-ness from

Here’s what Cecilia had to say when I got her on the phone:

So, were you surprised by the reaction to Valentina’s modeling gig?

“Well, I did think this could be big, but I didn’t know it would spread across the world, to countries whose languages I don’t even know! Friends from Brazil, Spain and everywhere have been sending stories about Valentina.”

I know, as the parent of a child with special needs, that sometimes people do not get how awesome he is. They look at him and see his disabilities, not his abilities. What’s been your experience with Valentina? 

“She’s so little, so we haven’t encountered anything that I can think of. We raise her like any child! She’s our first, and we just do what we would do with any child—go out with friends, to dinner, wherever. For everyone around us, life with her is the norm.”

How do you think more kid models with Down syndrome and other special needs could be generally good for our kids?

“I think the main thing is, it generates inclusion. When you see kids with special needs on ads and on the web, it becomes the norm. You know about them, you’re educated, you’re no longer afraid. Then you start including them and you see it as a natural part of your life. Kids with disabilities used to be hidden. We’ve dome a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. I would love to see a show on TV with kids who have Down syndrome, like a cartoon! There are so many things we can still do as a society. We are all different—and that’s what we should celebrate.”

Some skeptics say Valentina was chosen by Dolores Cortés because the company wanted to get attention for themselves. What would you like to say to these people?

“Everybody has their own perspective on life. That’s precisely one of the first lessons I learned with Valentina: Everything depends on how you look at it. Focus on the positive, and that will become your reality! Also, as a mom, I’m the first one to make sure my daughter is not exploited. You have to meet Dolores and her team to realize how amazing they are, and that they would not do this for her benefit. Dolores has featured other children with Down syndrome in her fashion shows, a couple of years ago. She’s done a fashion show to benefit breast cancer, too. She’s proactive about helping others.”

Some models are known for making demands at shoots—you know, champagne, green M&Ms. Did Valentina make any demands?

“She was unbelievable! She surprised us. We shot in ninety-degree weather on Fisher Island, for two hours straight. She was just smiling. You can’t wear a diaper on swimsuit photo shoots, and she didn’t even pee!”

What’s Valentina’s favorite thing to do when she’s not modeling, aside from napping? 

“She loves the water and she’s very social. Her latest thing is clapping. Whenever she thinks something is good or she did well or she’s happy to see someone, she claps. If Daddy comes in, she claps!”

From my other blog:

Images: Dolorés Cortes, photographed by Thomas Bollinger Photography; family photo, Cecilia Elizalde
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