Disability visibility

Mom tells why she helped her daughter become world’s first model with Down Syndrome

Madeline Stuart is embraced by her mother Rosanne Stuart after a fashion show. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

In an appearance-obsessed industry in which ‘imperfection’ is interpreted as a gap between one’s front teeth, Australian model Madeline Stuart is profoundly challenging conventional perceptions of beauty, writes Jane Mulkerrins in a profile for the Telegraph. Stuart, 19, who made her catwalk debut last September at New York Fashion Week, has Down Syndrome, and last week proved she’s no one-hit-wonder when she walked the shows at her second, consecutive Fashion Week in New York City.

Stuart’s mother, Rosanne, has a no-nonsense approach to her daughter’s newfound fame. “She is walking a catwalk, she’s not curing cancer,” she said of people commenting on Madeline’s “amazing” participation in the feted event. “When they told me my daughter had an 11 percent chance of living when she had open-heart surgery, and she survived, that was amazing. This is New York Fashion Week.”

Meg O’Connell, president of Global Disability Inclusion told the Telegraph that Stuart’s inclusion carried new significance, despite the fact disabled models have been being cast for some years now. “People with intellectual disabilities generally see images of themselves as being paid sub-minimum wage, of not being successful, of being in a sheltered environment,” said O’Connell. “Madeline is setting a new standard.”

In the article, Rosanne shared the story of her daughter’s unexpected survival and force of personality that has propelled her into modeling, dance and cheerleading, and addressed the misgivings of some disability advocates about “tokenism.”

Read the full story at The Telegraph.

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