“I hope through modeling I can change societies view of people with Disabilities, exposure is creating awareness, acceptance and inclusion.”
Madeline Stuart is not your average model; in fact, she has Down’s Syndrome. Rather than allowing her disability define her capabilities, Stuart embraces the fact that she deviates from conventional beauty standards. At the age of 23, Stuart has accomplished strutting down famous catwalks such as New York Fashion Week and Paris fashion week. New York Fashion Week was the most noticeable milestone in Stuart’s career, as her appearance in the show established her as the first professional adult model with Down’s Syndrome. Also during NYFW was the launch of her own fashion label, 21 Reasons Why. Stuart’s newfound fame granted her a platform to de-stigmatize notions surrounding people with disabilities. Stuart was granted accolades for her advocacy, including the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award from Global Down Syndrome in 2018. Stuart is also recognized by her home country, Australia, as an accomplished public figure; she was even nominated for the Pride of Australia and Young Australian of the Year award. Along with these accomplishments, she has also become a brand ambassador for the Australian Foundation for Disability, Art Hearts Fashion, and Wouldn’t Change a thing. Today, Stuart continues to vocalize her demands for diversity and inclusion in the modeling industry and will be ingrained in history as a symbol of resilience.
Q: What’s one obstacle that you’ve overcome in your career that you’re really proud of?
A: In the beginning, it was sometimes difficult for designers to see me as a professional and they expected that I would be happy to walk for free or for the “experience,” which was very disheartening. I worked very hard to break down barriers to get where I am and felt I deserved to be treated the same as other models. My mum and I worked hard to educate people and make some serious changes in the industry for myself and other models with a disability. I can proudly say that I am now treated like the other professional models, and I do not get asked to walk for the “experience” anymore. It’s real changes like this that make my job even more rewarding.