As of a couple of months ago, Madeline Stuart, 18, was just another aspiring model among a sea of aspiring models—one notable difference being the fact that she has Down syndrome. Models with DS are a rarity. But as of today, Madeline has landed not one but two modeling contracts, and the news has gone viral. She's going to be the faces of American activewear line Manifesta and fashion and accessories label everMaya.
"We are absolutely thrilled to work with a talent like Madeline on our newest national ad campaign," said Damian Graybelle, everMaya's president. "All of us at everMaya feel very strongly about creating a brand that is rooted in a spirit of inclusion and providing opportunities for those who begin life with barriers to success."
In an interview with Parents.com, he said working with Madeline was "an honor" and added, "She exemplifies what our brand is about."
Madeline seems beyond gung-ho, even about job hazards. As she noted, "I just love having fun in the front of the camera. The most challenging thing is false eyelashes, which I wore the other day for the first time." It's quite the month for the Australian teen, as she will also be performing at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles later this month as part of Bust a Move, a hip-hop dance program for teens and young adults with disability.
I'm sure doubters out there will grumble about companies looking for publicity, as happened when Valentina Guerrero, an adorable 10-month-old with Down syndrome, was chosen to model for a swimsuit catalog. But really, Madeline's an attractive, fit, expressive young woman who's worthy of modeling. Also, this is newsworthy; happenings like this will continue to be so until it becomes standard for women and men with special needs to model for companies. Props to everMaya and Manifesto. As Graybelle said, "Madeline Stuart is not a 'beautiful young woman with Down sydnrome,' rather she is beautiful—full stop."
Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.
Images: Courtesy of everMaya