1 thing all women can learn from the NY Fashion Week model who has Down syndrome

Runway model with Down syndromeI am pleased to welcome Rachel Gaddis as a guest blogger today. Rachel is a junior majoring in mass communications at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. She is supporting the development department as a public relations and corporate relations intern. Rachel, a strong writer with a passion for current events, will be interning with us until December.

by Rachel Gaddis

As much as I love being fashionable, I can’t say that I have ever had much of an interest in New York Fashion Week. I have a stereotypical idea of what it is like: a thin runway, size zero models, expensive clothing pieces that I would never think of putting together (or wear out in public!).

I even scrunch my nose a bit at the idea of the models on the runway. Why do they do it? I remember the few times I considered being in a pageant. Five seconds of thinking about subjecting myself to others’ critiques was all it took for me to back out. If I am already so critical of my appearance, why would I want the world — or even the people in my small hometown — looking at me?

But then, at this year’s New York Fashion Week, an 18-year-old named Madeline Stuart walked in the New York fashion show for FTL MODA. More noticeable than the Hendrik Vermeulen she was wearing was her confidence. It was evident in her poise, faint smile, sure steps, and high-fives with spectators halfway down the runway. With literally the world watching her, she was owning her beauty. This young woman is braver than I could ever hope to be — I can imagine I would have been feeling pretty sick and might have even tripped over my toes!

Madeline Stuart is an Australian model with Down syndrome whose modeling career took off after her Facebook pictures went viral earlier this year. She is the second young woman with Down syndrome to walk in NY Fashion week (behind actress Jamie Brewer) and is pursuing modeling as a career. She hopes to change people’s perception of Down syndrome, to stop discrimination, and most of all to encourage everyone to love and be loved.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Madeline’s mom said this about her daughter’s growing popularity: “You know why Maddie is so loved? Because she loves herself. Maddie truly loves herself.” My heart sank when I read those words. I have the worst self-talk of anyone I know. I am ashamed to say how much I compare myself to other women, how much I agonize over what I believe others think of me. I can’t say that I truly love who I am or that I consider myself beautiful.

But then I look at Madeline’s pictures on her website and social media accounts,and I see a young woman who can claim something much more valuable — and lasting — than perfect hair, the best body, or the cutest wardrobe. I see a beautiful human being who has struggled and overcome. I see a girl who refuses to believe she is anything less than amazing. I see self-acceptance. I see hope.

Madeline reminds me that I have a choice. I can choose to throw away the narrow view of beauty I have clung to for so long, and all the comparisons that come with it, and choose to love myself. Regardless of whether people will love me because of that, I need to love and own who I am.

So thank you, Madeline Stuart! You are changing the way the fashion world defines beauty, and, perhaps more importantly, the way we as women see ourselves.


Understanding Down syndrome


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  1. Alissa Rodriguez Says:

    Truly Beautiful, and and inspiring model, I follow you all the time on Facebook, I wanted to be a model. So proud of you too Love, Alissa

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