Australian model Madeline Stuart, a teen with Down Syndrome who landed two modeling contracts last month, hit another career milestone this week when she did a lovely photo shoot for EverMaya in New York City. Madeline was promoting a line of adorable handbags—"The Madeline"— that are quite unique not just because they're named after her, but because 5% of the sales of these bags (which go on sale August 15th) will also go to the National Down Syndrome Society.
This is a big deal for Madeline personally, but her reach extends beyond her own aspirations. As Damian Graybelle, president of EverMaya says: "The response that we received from our initial campaign with Madeline was so far beyond what we ever imagined. A conversation with one mother really stands out and personally affected me. She just had a baby born with Down syndrome a few months ago, and told me that she has not really been out of her house much after her child was born. But she came out to see the EverMaya team at an event, and told me that our partnership with Madeline has provided her with hope and a whole new perspective on what the future holds for her baby."
As a mom to a child with autism who loves fashion (true story, I've watched every season of Project Runway and America's Next Top Model), I'm thrilled to see the industry growing more diverse and accepting. Earlier this year, I reported on the #IMREADY campaign, which advocates for more models with special needs, and the "Changing the Face of Beauty" campaign, but I didn't expect to see change happening so quickly! Three cheers for Madeline—who's breaking down barriers and changing perceptions all while looking fabulous. I can't wait to see what the next few months bring for her and for other kids with special needs who want to follow in her footsteps.
Jamie Pacton lives near Portland where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, Facebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter @jamiepacton
Image Courtesy of: EverMaya / Tammy Swales Studio