This 18-Year-Old With Down Syndrome Just Won Model of the Year, and This Is Why
Madeline Stuart didn't just wake up to a phone call, inviting her to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week. The inspiring 18-year-old with Down syndrome worked for her dream. While Maddy released a series of stylish images that seemed to go viral overnight, posing for that camera took a lot of practice, in addition to a brand-new diet and exercise regimen.
But it seemed Maddy was just what the industry needed. After fronting numerous campaigns and getting her own namesake bag, Maddy showed off three looks in this season's FTL Moda presentation and finished up her Fashion Month by receiving the Mélange Model of the Year award.
While Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner are racking up the Instagram followers, Maddy is racking up the love on her own social media pages and sending out a very important message: anyone can be beautiful. Read on to learn what it takes to face the fashion world head on, straight from Maddy and her mother, Rosanne.
The Moment Maddy Knew She Wanted to Be a Model
"[Maddy] always loved to dress up, but as far as modeling went, I think that when she went to the fashion parade [in Australia] and she saw the girls up on the catwalk, it just clicked."
The Viral Photos That Launched Maddy's Career
"Wanting to be a model and being a model are two different things — you have to understand what it takes. So I took her to a photo shoot in April and she loved it. I don't really know what she did in the photo shoot because she made me sit in the waiting room as every 18-year-old does; a young woman doesn't want her mother around. But the photos came out amazing and I sent them out in May this year and they just went viral . . . I posted another photo on Facebook on Tuesday night, and overnight it got 600,000 views."
Working on Her Fitness
"[Maddy] had started to lose weight in March because she couldn't keep up with her dancing in her class and her other sports. She said to me she was unhappy, so we just got rid of all the junk food in the house, and she just started being healthy. When she said she wanted to be a model, I said, 'Well, you're going to have to keep getting healthy if you want to be a model.'"
Maddy's Message to the Fashion World
"Whatever you want to do, do it. Don't take no for an answer, and follow your dreams . . . This is not about modeling. This is about people seeing Madeline so often that they get used to seeing someone with Down syndrome that they can walk up to and just have a conversation."
The Dress She Wore to Walk the Runway
"That dress was actually made out of recycled material! If you put it into the ocean, within a week it disintegrates."
The Most Stressful Part of NYFW
"Backstage was chaotic because [Maddy had] never been in an experience like that before. All the people in the makeup room being taught how to do it by the head makeup artist — I mean there were 100 people in the room, and that shocked me because there was a high stress level. At one point, just before the show, there were about 30 photographers that kept photographing Madeline, and she just started to cry because she was so overwhelmed."
How She Fights Haters
"The only time there was ever anything negative was on social media. I don't look at it like, Madeline is fantastic, I look at it like, some people have worked their asses off, and it's been so easy for Madeline. It really is like the world has been waiting for Madeline to be a positive influence."
Maddy's Signature Style
"It's more about the style of clothing than the brand. [Maddy's] grown up with a mom that's not into brands. I would say leggings, but she loves dresses. She loves being pretty and doing her hair and makeup and all that."
Maddy's Upcoming Projects
"A French photographer contacted us and said he wanted to do a photo shoot. [We] wanted to do something in San Francisco that says 'San Francisco,' so he took us to the Golden Gate Bridge. I was ecstatic — I don't get excited very often, I sort of stay mellow because Madeline is very in tune with my emotions — but I was certainly excited [about the photos], and she was excited.
"Maddy is also in talks with another designer that wants her to walk at the UN next year in New York. So, there are a lot of things that are coming up next year."
Why You'll See Maddy on the Runway Again
"The reason Madeline was the most talked-about model on the runway — I mean yeah, she has Down syndrome — but she was the only person that made everyone stand up and clap; they all wanted to high-five her . . . It wasn't about how she looked, or the dress or anything else, it was about her spirit. She walked out on the catwalk and she put her arms up in the air and celebrated, and everyone celebrated with her."
How the Fashion World's Embraced Maddy
"It's amazing that the fashion industry has taken Madeline in, and it's given us the chance to spread the idea of inclusion. I've found the fashion industry amazing. I mean, everyone told me it was heartless, but every single person that we've worked with is amazing, absolutely beautiful, has been excited to see Madeline, and has treated her like a princess . . . People treat her like she's a movie star. We're just average people. Madeline loves modeling, she loves getting dressed up, she loves getting her hair and makeup done, she loves being on the catwalk more than anything on the planet."