Several months ago, I wrote about an aspiring Australian model named Madeline Stuart. In June, Stuart was busy trying to break into the fashion world as one of the first models with Down syndrome. I concluded that piece by saying, “Madeline Stuart is ready to begin her modeling career, and is currently looking for an agent. We at Rooted In Rights will be eagerly watching her bright future.”
Now, I am delighted to say that Stuart has come into her own, making national and international headlines by beginning her career as a professional and widely respected model. Stuart has become the face of the handbag brand EverMaya, as well as the cosmetics brand GlossiGirl, has signed a contract with the athletic-brand Manifesta, and is preparing to participate in New York Fashion Week this September. According to TODAY, Stuart will walk with, “FTL MODA, which has partnered with The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to feature models with disabilities in its shows — an effort to break stereotypes both on and off the runway.” Stuart has been keeping her fans and followers updated by posting her achievements and press coverage on her public profile Facebook page.
In the face of her rising fame, Stuart has remained passionate about raising awareness about the power and potential of people with disabilities. As part of her work with EverMaya, 5% of every purchase of The Madeline, the handbag named after Stuart, will go to the National Down Syndrome Society.
Hopefully Stuart’s success breaking into the fashion industry will be have a lasting impact for other aspiring models. Moving forward, I imagine we will have to ask ourselves what inclusion really means, and how it can be seen. In a recent article, the deputy fashion editor of the Guardian, Hannah Marriot, quoted Cat Smith from the London College of Fashion. Regarding the fight for inclusion of models with disabilities, Smith stated, “But what I find frustrating is that you see the same thing over and over again. Fashion week comes around, a couple of shows include disabled models – and that is a good thing – but the coverage that follows is often quite patronizing. It often becomes a fuzzy, inspirational human interest story, aimed at a non-disabled audience, rather than a step towards real inclusivity.”
We will have to wait and see what the future brings us. In the meantime, Stuart represents a strong chance at real change. In the video below, the global news community AJ+ has captured the force and power behind Stuart and what she might bring to the fashion world.
This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of Rooted in Rights.
Featured photo by Erica A. Nichols.