There has been a perceptible change in our society as people have accepted and embraced a more inclusive idea of perfection. Modeling is no longer the monopoly of the supermodels. It is more about individuals who people can identify with. Madeline Stuart, a woman with Down syndrome, has made it big in the modeling industry which proves that people also need life models, not just supermodels.
Born in Brisbane, this Australian model has already made a name for herself in almost all the major fashion walks. She has been a picture of grace and dignity and has won over the world with her perseverance.
Traditionally, the industry had a rigid concept of the perfect body image that had its origins in the western concept of beauty. Perfection was equated with being slim, white, tall and leggy.
Madeline symbolizes the change in the industry and that makes her the champion of life model. She is invited to most major fashion shows but her health comes in the way. In December 2018 she was rushed to hospital with heart failure and required open heart-surgery to set right a valve.
She had her first surgery to repair a hole in her heart when Stuart was barely 8 weeks. Her mother said that the very memory of the adversity and pain that they endured still terrifies her. She is happy that her daughter lives life with such joy and vivacity.
Rosanne remembers the shock when she first knew about her daughter’s affliction. It took a few days before she could reconcile herself. she pulled herself together and decided that she was not going to let it stop her or her child.
She decided that her daughter would not suffer from a lack of opportunity. Madeline found her calling at the age of 17. Her mother recalls that they were at a fashion pageant. Stuart looked at her mother and uttered the words, “Mum, me model.” The doting mother didn’t hesitate. She knew that her daughter loved the spotlight and was quite comfortable in a crowd. As a teen, she herself had also tried modeling but had quickly lost interest. She expected her daughter to do the same.
But Madeline was made of sterner stuff. She worked on her body to get into a better condition and shed 40 pounds from her 5ft 7inch frame. In 2015 her mother had a professional portfolio made for her and uploaded the photos on Facebook.
The pictures went viral immediately and were viewed 7 million times. Her modeling career took off after that.
Her first ramp walk was for Hendrik Vermeulen, the designer from South Africa at the New York Fashion Week. All she had learned by way of practice was from a coach from the Juilliard School of Dance.
She has come a long way having walked for top designers including Lulu et Gigi, Nonie, Coleen Morris, and Zula Designs and has notched more than 100 fashion catwalks. She has made it to the major fashion weeks in Paris, London, New York, and Russia and also the Runway Dubai and Mercedes Benz fashion week, and a lot more. Her social media followers have crossed a million.
She is loved by the fraternity. Other models and designers are affectionate towards her, says Madeline’s mother. There have been rare instances where designers have not appreciated her professional worth. They have expected Madeline to appear for free in their fashion shows.
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But Madeline realizes that life is not always fair and she shouldn’t take things personally. It is only through exposure that things can be changed. She has succeeded in changing perceptions about modeling and people have come to accept her.