The face of real community

18-year-old Madeline Stuart, a “beautiful, bubbly redhead” from Australia, is already a professional model. This week, she flew to New York for Fashion Week and hit the runway. Great coverage (I wish they didn’t refer to her as a “Down’s model.” Her whole campaign is about changing the way people think about someone with a disability, so why not just call her a model?) Check out the piece from Huffington Post.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Model Madeline Stuart walks the runway at Hendrik Vermeulen Spring 2016 during New York Fashion Week at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal on September 13, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 13: Model Madeline Stuart walks the runway at Hendrik Vermeulen Spring 2016 during New York Fashion Week at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal on September 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  (L-R) Models Jesse Pattison, Madeline Stuart and Ben Pulchinski are seen backstage of Hendrik Vermeulen show during Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal on September 13, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 13: (L-R) Models Jesse Pattison, Madeline Stuart and Ben Pulchinski are seen backstage of Hendrik Vermeulen show during Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal on September 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

And catching up fast, meet this litttle Englishwoman. Well on her way to a modeling careeris two-year-old Connie-Rose, featured in The Mighty. Her mum nailed it when she told The Daily Mail, “Connie-Rose’s disability does not define who she is…Connie-Rose has Down syndrome, it’s not that she is Down syndrome.”

RPY_CONNIE_ROSE_3-500x750Photo by Ross Parry

Years ago, encouraged by writer and parent Emily Perl Kingsley, I wrote lots and lots of letters to the marketing directors of lots and lots of companies, asking when we’d see people with disabilities reflected in their ads and commercials. Emily said if we never ask, and ask over and over again, people with disabilities will never be represented as a legitimate part of the community with purchasing power. People with disabilities and their families are consumers just like everyone else. But until we convinced the marketers of clothes, cars, perfume, shaving cream, toys, homes, food, health care, education… of that fact, we’d never see our friends and family members reflected back at us. And now here we are! There have been few and far between examples in recent years, but with high profile events like the NYFW, modeling contracts and a spotlight on who they are, not what they have, Madeline and Connie-Rose can start showing off the face of real community.

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