First Model With Down Syndrome to Walk Runway in New York Fashion Week Is Changing Perceptions

August 22, 2019 Updated: August 28, 2019

There is no doubt that certain perceptions are changing in the fashion industry toward individuals with disabilities—individuals such as 22-year-old model Madeline Stuart, who has Down syndrome.

The blossoming runway walker from Brisbane, Australia, got her start via posting photos of herself on social media in May of 2015. Not long after that, she became the first model with the disorder in the fashion industry and the first such model to walk the runway in New York Fashion Week in the fall of that same year.

I have only been home from the cruise for a few days and I am ready to get back to work again.Lucky I head to Prague…

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎Madeline Stuart‎‏ في الأربعاء، ١٥ مايو ٢٠١٩

After Madeline started posting her photos on Facebook, she went viral online. Her following grew “exponentially,” and both she and her mother, Rosanne Stuart, started fielding modeling requests—including a major deal with handbag company EverMaya, where Madeline would be the face of a new line named after her.

From there, the doors only opened up for Madeline, which her mother attributes to changing attitudes toward those with disabilities and Down syndrome. She also believes her daughter is a catalyst for that change.

“The world was ready,” Rosanne told Cosmopolitan in an interview in 2015. “The world wants to be inclusive, it just hasn’t had anyone on such a platform that they were able to do it easily.”

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Yet, it’s fair to say that in any undertaking of this kind, there are always challenges in the form of intolerance from those who resist change or simply from bullies who target those who are different. There are also people in the fashion industry who aren’t yet fully “on board.”

“All of a sudden, they have to wrap their brains around something different. We have people in wheelchairs,” said Rosanne, discussing some of the efforts toward inclusivity being made in the modeling business. “That’s amazing. That’s just us growing as humans.”

Rosanne is also her daughter’s protector and ensures that she gets treated fairly, doesn’t get taken advantage of, and gets paid just like any other model. She gets paid “well,” according to WWD.

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As far as dealing with bullies, the mother and daughter choose to simply brush them off.

“Of course there’s bullying on the Internet,” said Rosanne. “That has happened a lot, but we don’t take notice of that. That is a reflection of the person who is doing the bullying—it’s not a reflection of what we’re doing.”

Other than NYFW, Madeline has also done major shows in London, Paris, Russia, China, Dubai, and all over the United States for a total of some 60 shows. She’s also been featured in pretty much every major fashion magazine that you can name, including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Elle.

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Online, Madeline has some 1 million followers on her various social media accounts. When her early photos were first posted, they had garnered as many as 7 million views in just a few days.

All this fame and excitement has only allowed Madeline to bloom as a person, her mom says. Although the younger Stuart has difficulty with speech, she is brimming with positivity, and that shines through in her work.

“She doesn’t need to prepare,” Rosanne said, via WWD. “She is just ready. It’s her whole thing. She just loves the catwalk. She is just in the zone at all times. She just gets in there, gets into hair and makeup and is excited.

A beautiful night celebrating WDSD. Thanks to @tuliplcjs and @alleira_batik

تم النشر بواسطة ‏‎Madeline Stuart‎‏ في الثلاثاء، ٢٦ مارس ٢٠١٩

“If they want her to be serious, she’s serious. They usually want her to get the crowd going.

“She’s always been a positive young woman, but now she’s just come alive,” Rosanne adds. “Meeting all these people and learning all these new cultures just made her grow as a person. She’s become such a secure young person.”

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