Last year we were at a fashion parade and Maddy said, “Mum, Me, Model” My little girl always loved being in the spotlight, and I knew at that moment she wanted to get up on the catwalk then and there. Of course this meant that I had to explain to her that she couldn’t just climb up on the stage and model, which didn’t go down well as you can imagine. But I also knew at that moment that my daughter was going to do something special.
After the parade, I explained to Maddy that if she wanted to be a model she would have to keep on the healthy eating schedule she had started earlier that year to keep up with her dance troupe. Nine months later, we were off to see a professional photographer. Maddy was super excited to do her first photo shoot. As for me, I was doing it to see if she would actually like doing a photo shoot; it is one thing to say you want to do something but another is to experience how it is done and decide you actually love it.
Well she loved it, and when I previewed the photos the following week, I nearly fell out of my chair. I had always known my baby girl was cute, but in these photos she was stunning.
I consulted with parents with children living with Down syndrome before doing anything. I wanted to know what people thought about what we were doing and if the photos were too controversial; however, the feedback was phenomenal. People said the photos were in great taste and I should post them all over the world. So that is what I did. I created a public profile called Madeline Stuart on Facebook, and within a week her photos were viral. So many people said she was an inspiration. She gave people hope that their children living with Down syndrome would achieve anything they set their mind to.
Since then Maddy has walked the catwalk in New York for auto immune awareness, will model at New York Fashion Week this September, and has become the face of a cosmetic company called Glossigirl, which makes her the first model with a disability to ever do this. She is now known as the first professional adult model with Down syndrome in the world and is actually supporting herself doing it. She also has a bag named after her called ‘The Madeline” by a handbag company called EverMaya which donates it’s sales to National Down Syndrome Society. Before the end of the year we will be visiting USA, Sweden and even Russia pursuing her dream career. She has been nominated for Pride of Australia and the a young Australian of the Year Award. She will receiving Model of the Year Award at Melange 2015 in San Francisco.
Of course I believe this is just the beginning and to anyone that knows us they also know that this is not just about modeling, this is about changing the world, this is about creating inclusion, stopping discrimination and breaking down those walls of confinement. Modelling is just the vehicle that is letting us do it. We want everyone to love and be loved, after all that is all that truly matters.