Jamie Brewer made headlines in February as the first model with Down syndrome when she took to the Carrie Hammer catwalk during New York Fashion Week.
Now, an Australian teen with the same chromosomal abnormality is continuing the fight for acceptance in the fashion world.
Madeline Stuart, an 18-year-old redhead from Brisbane, is the first model with Down syndrome to land not just one fashion campaign, but two ― first with athletic wear company Manifesta and second with handbag brand everMaya.
“Both companies approached us to do a photo shoot for them, and after looking at their products, we believed the products would be a good fit as Maddy loves fitness and the brand was cute and inclusive,” Maddy’s mom, Rosanne Stuart, revealed in an interview with the Huffington Post.
“EverMaya has not only beautiful products that are very well made, but also have a very charitable belief, so they were a perfect match.”
Maddy’s path to modeling began as a youngster, when she was battling weight problems. The teen learned about healthy eating and exercise, and lost 45 pounds thanks to a combination of dancing, swimming, gymnastics and cheerleading.
“I think it is time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated,” Rosanne told Buzzfeed. “People with Down syndrome can do anything. They just do it at their own pace. Give them a chance and you will be rewarded beyond your greatest expectations.”
Maddy’s story has been shared in countries around the world, including Sri Lanka, Italy, Indonesia, Hungary, Turkey, Romania and Macedonia.
“As uncomfortable as it may be for us to admit in a society that has made some tremendous leaps as of late in becoming more accepting, people with disabilities are still often viewed dismissively as being less capable,” shared Damian Graybelle, president of Rochester, NY-based everMaya, on his company’s blog.
“Let me be clear here ― Madeline Stuart is not a ‘beautiful young woman with Down syndrome,’ rather she is beautiful ― full stop,” he continues. “In every photo featuring Madeline, you see an expression of pure joy on her face. That joy is infectious, and you can’t help but walk away with a smile of your own as well.”
Maddy graduated from high school this past spring and is currently looking for an agent to help manage her modeling gigs. So far, she’s amassed nearly 400,000 likes on Facebook, and boasts more than 46,000 followers on Instagram.
“Modeling will help change [society’s] view of people with Down syndrome,” Maddy writes on her Facebook page.
“Exposure will help to create acceptance.”