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Girls & Women

Madeline Stuart Returns to NYFW, Bringing Diversity to High-Fashion

Madeline Stuart, the world’s only professional model with Down syndrome, will be strutting the catwalk Saturday, marking her third appearance at New York Fashion Week (NYFW.)

The activist and model shared an image on Instagram giving a sneak peak into her excitement to be back at NYFW, which kicked off Wednesday.

Stuart began modelling professionally at age 18, with support from her friends and family in Brisbane, Australia. It all started when her mother, Rosanne, took Stuart to a fashion show in 2014 exposing her to the new world she fell in love with. She wanted to be model instantly.

“Mum, me, model,” she told her mom, who said if she continued to eat healthy and stayed with her dance group, she would pay to get professional photos taken for her daughter.

At one time Stuart was considered 40 pounds overweight, which limited her from doing certain activities, like turning cartwheels. Her mother helped her learn to make healthier eating choices and worked on an exercise routine, including fun activities Stuart loves.

Weight control is a common issue for people with Down syndrome, according to the National Down Syndrome Association. This can be a result of other underlying medical issues such as hyperthyroidism. More often though, it stems from a lack of awareness that healthy diet and exercise benefit all people.

Through healthy eating habits and routine exercise, Stuart broke this myth showing the world healthy habits are inclusive for all. And in less than a year, Stuart had her professional photos, and one shocked mother.

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“I nearly fell out of my chair. I had always known my baby girl was cute, but in these photos she was stunning,” Stuart’s mom wrote on Maddy’s Blog.

She wanted to use the power of social media to eliminate negative stereotypes against people with disabilities. Now those dreams are a continued reality.

Since stunning her mother and the the rest of the world, Stuart has shattered norms of beauty walking for designers from South Africa, modeling wedding couture, and fitness lines like Manifesta. She has a handbag named after her, more than 135K followers on Instagram, and is supporting herself through her modeling career.

This year, she will be walking for Speechless Vulgarity —  a brand whose mission is to create a place for all genders and people to express themselves.

Fashion can be fast fleeting. Trends can flicker in and out of style in an instant yet Stuart’s appearance in her third NYFW is an inspiration sending a strong message that diversity and inclusion for all people is so much more than a five-minute fad. Stuart is truly a groundbreaking figure in an industry that too often demands perfection and thrives off exclusivity.

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“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,” shared Stuart’s proud mother.


By taking action on Global Citizen, you will have a chance to win tickets to this year's in New York City on Sept. 24, 2016. Download the Global Citizen mobile app to get access to the latest actions so you can be eligible for free tickets.

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