Chris Garafola is an ultra-successful model who has worked alongside Gisele Bündchen and done photo shoots for major brands like Puma and New Balance. He has 60,000 followers on Instagram, with each post getting thousands of likes. Seeing his success, one might wonder how he became so popular and what has kept him going. The answer to that question is his sister, Brittany.
Brittany was born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by an extra chromosome in her body. This has caused delays to her growth and mental capacity. She also had to undergo many open-heart surgeries as a kid. But through it all, her loving, positive attitude has inspired her little brother Chris.
“Our hardships only made us stronger and brought us closer together as a family,” Chris told Dailymail.
Took Brit out to dinner with a friend. She finished her meal first so my friend asked if she wanted some of his. Brit responded, “I can’t, I’m saving room for desert! Chris? Can we get ice cream?” Me: “1. I love you. 2. Obvi we’re getting ice cream after! Who do you think I am?! 3. Did I tell you that I love you?” ❤️ #AlwaysRoomForIceCream #ChocolateFace #TeamGarafola
Vermont natives Chris and Brittany have been best friends for a long time, but they grew particularly close when their parents divorced. Despite being the older sibling, Brittany soon started looking up to Chris.
“Brittany has always wanted to do everything her little brother did. If I go to prom, she wants to go to prom, if I go to college she wants to go to college,” he explained in an Instagram post.
So, sure enough, when Chris started modeling, Brittany wanted to get in on that too.
“When I started to show her the commercials or magazines I was in, she would tell me she wanted to do it, too,” Chris told People, “But I told her that she was already a model—I was trying to be like her!”
Over the next few years, Brittany would continue bringing up the subject, but her brother wasn’t sure how to get her into modeling. Then, around the time of her 32nd birthday, Chris and his mother, Kerryann McQuade, came up with a marvelous idea.
Kerryann was going to drive her daughter down from Vermont to Boston on July 20th, which gave Chris enough time to plan for a surprise photoshoot. He used his social media connections to book photographers, videographers, stylists and make-up artists for the event.
Birthdays are a big deal for Brittany. She talks about them for months beforehand, and she always wants to do something big. Chris and Kerryann were confident that this would be her biggest party yet—but they didn’t want to spoil the surprise. So, when asked what they were planning for her, they gave the disappointing answer, “go for a walk or get something to eat.”
“It was killing me seeing the look on her face!” Chris told People, “She looked at me like, ‘Come on, man, aren’t we going to do something?’”
Yet, when she arrived at the photoshoot, that disappointment transformed into pure excitement. Her reaction when she found out why the photographers and stylists were there was priceless.
“She started jumping up and down and giving me a hug and crying,” Chris continued, “It was really emotional.”
I am so, incredibly grateful, for all of the amazingly talented people who offered their time and services, to make my sister Brittany's birthday, one she'll never forget. Brittany has always wanted to do everything her little brother did. If I go to prom, she wants to go to prom, if I go to college she wants to go to college. Over the years, I always showed her my work and she’s like, “That’s cool! I want to model!” She kept asking and asking. As you guys who follow my journey know, Brittany and I would do Instagram videos together documenting our every day lives as siblings. She started saying, “I want to go to Hollywood! I want a limo!” I was like, “Where are you getting all this stuff from? You don’t want to go to Hollywood, you have the best life in the world.” But she kept going back to the modeling thing so I decided to surprise her for her birthday and make that wish come true and have her model for the day. The priority was to make her day and show her she can do anything that her brother can do and she should be allowed to. My sister’s the most beautiful person in the world. On a greater scale, I wanted to show the world what true beauty is. I wanted to encourage people to live life happy, be strong and confident, and to spread positive energy with the world. There is a lot of hurt and anger in our world, but there will always be more love and light. Brittany, your brother loves you more than you know. I hope you had the best day — you looked stunning. Maybe one of these days, you and your little brother will model a big campaign together as #TeamGarafola. Regardless, you'll always be a supermodel and you will always, be my hero. **BIG THANKS TO OUR AMAZING CREW!!** 👇🏼 @hive.studio @cassablanca_kid @austinhuck @jpietroski @itsclaireroche @chrisvalites @sashagreenhalgh @michael0bueno @hlm1230 @bearwalkcinema @veevisuals @tayglo @kaciecorbelle @ennisinc @maggieagency @thetrustees @wholefoods @starmarkets @traderjoes @b_p_r @boston_photo_rental @changingthefaceofbeauty #changingthefaceofbeauty #fashion #editorial #Supermodel #todayshow #ellendegeneres #dailyinspiration #downsyndromeawareness #lovematters #love #Gap #IMGModels #wlyg #calvinklein
After she was made-up and dressed, Brittany was ready for her big shoot. As she posed for the camera, she took her role very seriously. Chris considers her a natural.
“She did a lot better than many of the models that I’ve worked with. I was very impressed,” Chris said.
While fun and his sister’s happiness were obviously the main reasons for the shoot, Chris also hopes that it will open the door for more disabled models.
“I want people to question what they think is beautiful, and realize that everybody should have the same opportunities in this life no matter where they’re born or what they’re born with,” he says.
Chris’s love and respect for his sister is truly awe-inspiring. He’s one heck of a little brother!
“She’s been my best friend from the beginning. For me, my purpose here is to make sure my sister has a good life, is protected and is healthy. Her happiness is my happiness, and that has held true from when we were kids to today.”