Model With Down Syndrome Challenges Beauty Norms in New Bridal Campaign
At first glance, a picture of a young woman dressed in a full white ball gown with a dramatic veil blowing in the wind against a scenic field looks much like any other photo used to advertise a wedding venue. But model Madeline Stuart, a teen with Down syndrome, hopes the pictures she posed for prove that all women are worthy and capable of falling in love.
Stuart modeled three different dresses—accompanied by three different grooms—in a recent shoot for Virginia wedding venue Rixey Manor.
“A lot of newly engaged women cannot see themselves as a bride because all the images magazines use are of these tall, thin models,” Rixey Manor owner Isadora Martin-Dye told the Independent of her decision to hire Stuart. “I think that being a bride is a life experience that every woman should be able to see herself doing.”
The Australian teen has made a name for herself walking in New York Fashion Week, modeling for fitness brand Manifesta, and as the face of a handbag line for EverMaya.
While Stuart loves being in front of the camera, part of her mission in modeling is to spread awareness and promote inclusion of people with disabilities, according to her Facebook page.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder, with roughly one child born with Down syndrome for every 1,000 births worldwide. People with intellectual disabilities continue to be pushed to the margins of society, facing higher rates of bullying throughout childhood and higher rates of poverty and unemployment as adults. A 2015 survey found that negative attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities persist, including their ability to participate in a romantic relationship. Half of Americans polled said they would be uncomfortable with their child dating or marrying someone with an intellectual disability.
“[The bridal shoot] was to break down barriers, to let people see and understand that people with disabilities get married also,” Stuart’s mom, Rosanne, told The Mighty.
From the looks of the comments on Stuart’s Instagram, the bridal shoot has done just that, with dozens of fans calling her a hero and an inspiration to young girls with Down syndrome.