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18-Year-old model with Down syndrome will change the NYFW game

Fashion Week took a major step forward this past winter when Jamie Brewer, actress-turned-model with Down syndrome, walk the runway. This fall, they’re continuing that body-positive trend by having 18-year-old Madeline Stuart follow in her footsteps on the catwalk.

Brewer was the first person with Down syndrome to participate in a major fashion show, and thanks to this news, we know she definitely won’t be the last. Finally, thanks in part to designer Carrie Hammer’s show message “role models over runway models,” the fashion world is recognizing that beauty comes in many forms.

MoreJamie Brewer is about to make history at New York Fashion Week — here’s why

Case in point: young Ms. Stuart, who gained notoriety when her Facebook and Instagram modeling pictures went viral last month. Where some might feel compelled to hide what makes them different, Stuart, from Brisbane, Australia, believes showing it boldly through modeling is the best way to get the world to accept it. To quote her Facebook page, “I hope through modelling I can change societies view of people with Disabilities.”

And boy, was she right. She has amassed more than 100,000 followers, all of whom send her support and admiration, and now she has been invited to strut down one of the fashion world’s more notable runways. She’s walking specifically for MODA in association with the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Her mother couldn’t be prouder, but she’s not surprised by her daughter’s success. She believes it needed to happen, because the world is finally ready to hear her message.

“The modeling is fun and everything, but it’s just a vehicle to get the message out. I think that’s why she’s done so well… because this isn’t about us. It’s about fighting the fight for all the people out there that are a bit different that need to be loved,” her mother Roseanne Stuart told Cosmo.

Her mother is most encouraged by the wave of positivity that’s flooding her daughter’s social media pages. It’s showing her that the world’s come a long way since Maddy was little. “This is the next generation! These are young girls who are never going to grow up being discriminatory! When Maddy was born, I can remember walking around the street with people abusing me, saying she should be in an institution.”

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Based on reactions to Maddy on her social media pages and this incredible opportunity to be featured in Fashion Week, it seems the world is finally embracing people with disabilities. Maddy and her mom are thrilled to be able to ride the wave of acceptance, especially considering how long the road has been to reach this point.

And a large part of how they’ve made it this far is Maddy’s unflinching positivity. “You know why Maddy is so loved? Because she loves herself. [Maddy] truly loves herself. She’ll tell you she’s gorgeous. She’ll tell you she’s wonderful. I mean, I tell her every day how great she is, but she truly believes it.” That is an extraordinary way to be, especially considering that she’s working in an industry that often creates body issues in people without disabilities.

With all this love and encouragement behind her, coupled by her own unwavering confidence, I know Maddy will dominate Fashion Week this year — and any other modeling job that’s sure to come her way.

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