By Ellen Seidman
May 18, 2015

There's an aspiring model getting a lot of attention on social media. Australian teenager Madeline Stuart, 18, has all of the makings: gorgeous flowing red hair, pouty lips, and a bikini body. This girl also happens to have something that's rare in the modeling world: Down syndrome.

Madeline, who's had weight issues common among people with Down syndrome, got in shape last year by eating better, swimming, cheerleading, hip-hop dancing, and cricket training with the Special Olympics, reports The Daily Mail. In fact, Maddy is a member of Bust a Move, a hip-hop dance program for teens and young adults with disability that will perform at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles in July. After she lost more than 40 pounds, she proceeded to inform her mother that she wanted to model. As mom Rosanne said, "She loves the attention when she is up on stage, doing a play, or competing in gymnastics or cheer, and I have always taken millions of photos of her so she loves the camera."

In recent years, a growing number of kids and teens with Down syndrome have appeared in ads and TV commercials. Wet Seal tapped Karrie Brown, a 17-year-old with Down syndrome, to model for the company. The world was charmed when 10-month-old Valentina Guerrero became a swimsuit cover model for a catalog. As her mom told, "When you see kids with special needs on ads and on the web, it becomes the norm.... Then you start including them and you see it as a natural part of your life."

Rosanne similarly hopes something bigger will come out of her daughter's modeling dreams. "I think it's time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated," she noted. "I want people to stop saying 'I'm sorry' when I tell them my daughter has Down syndrome."

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.


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