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Down Syndrome Awareness: Redefining Beauty Standards
As a skincare professional, I am in the business of not only boosting people's dermatological health, but I am in the business of making people feel beautiful. So often we look to magazines and movies to define our standards and aspirations, and while the women gracing the covers and taking to staring roles are, no doubt, beautiful, it is sometimes easy to forget that they are not what defines beauty. 2015 was a wonderful year for beauty standards, with body positive campaigns becoming more and more prevalent, and some serious breakthroughs in the fashion industry. What I want to focus on today is a little bit of a lesser discussed beauty topic: two women with down syndrome, working to redefine the way the world thinks of the condition.
These two women are Jamie Brewer and Madeline Stuart, and their triumphs tugged at an extra special place in my heart, because my dear friend Mercedes is currently a mommy to a beautiful baby girl with down syndrome. After reading about both Jamie and Madeline, I decided to ask her her thoughts on these two influential women, and get her perspective on the standards of beauty. But first, a little bit about these fabulous women and their goals!
Introducing Jamie Brewer & Madeline Stuart
If you keep up on the happenings in the fashion industry, it is very likely you have heard these two names. And if you haven't I am incredibly excited to be sharing their legacies with you.
Jamie Brewer is an actress, best known for her role in American Horror Story, a popular TV show. But Jamie also became a pioneer in the year 2015, becoming the first model with down syndrome to walk at New York Fashion Week! Her goal? To inspire people to be who they are, to go after their dreams, and to be a role model who shows that achieving your dreams is possible. The fashion show pushed designer Carrie Hammer's "Role Models, Not Runway Models" campaign, which has the goal of changing the face of beauty to include more than what we see in magazines and movies, and to include people living with disabilities. As someone who loves beauty in many different forms, I was so proud to see such a wonderful model (walking among many other wonderful models) in such an influential show.
Much like Jamie Brewer, Madeline Stuart received recognition for her desire to change the way the world thinks about beauty. Madeline is a young model with down syndrome. Her goal? To change the way people think about both modeling and down syndrome. More than the art form of modeling, Madeline hopes to use her position as a model to drive awareness and to create acceptance for people with down syndrome, and to prove that the condition can not only be beautiful, but that it should be celebrated.
If any of you kept up with the goings-on of this year's NY Fashion Week, you likely saw (or read about) the beautiful Madeline walking in Hendrik Vermeulen's show, looking absolutely stunning in their Spring 2016 collection. The Australian beauty also landed two amazing modeling contracts this year, one for fitness brand Manifesta, and another for eco-friendly handbag label everMaya. You go Madeline!
More About Mercedes & Beautiful Sunflower
Long before Mercedes and her husband Andy were married, they had discussed their desire to adopt with one another. Mercedes has spent lots of time working with teens and adults with disabilities, and her and her husband have also enjoyed the incredibly rewarding experience of going on a missions trip to Haiti, visiting an orphanage that hosted special needs children. When Andy and Mercedes made the decision to adopt, Mercedes asked her husband, "what if we adopt a baby with down syndrome?". After taking two days to think about it, Andy gave his official "on board", and with nothing holding the couple back, they started their journey, praying for a child with Down Syndrome.
In the early AM hours on Monday, June 3rd 2013, their beautiful daughter, Sunflower Mae, was born in San Jose, California. This was the beginning of what the couple deems as "an era of blessings".
Naturally, Mercedes was the first person I wanted to talk to when I first heard about Jamie and Madeline, and I am so excited to share some of her insights with you!
How do you feel about what Madeline and Jamie have accomplished?
Mercedes: I am thrilled and so encouraged by Madeline and Jamie's accomplishments. These gorgeous, successful women with Down Syndrome are going to be wonderful examples for my sweet Sunflower one day. I can't wait to show my daughter who like Madeline and Jamie, has Down Syndrome, that anything she dreams of is possible! Madeline and Jamie are paving the way for all future girls with Down Syndrome.
As a mother to a beautiful baby with down syndrome, can you share how rewarding your parenting experience has been, and continues to be?
Mercedes: Sunflower is the BEST!!! Seriously since the day we brought her home it has been a gift! It's amazing to get a front row seat to a miracle every day. Sunflower works very hard to accomplish physical skills and capabilities. Her strength and desire to learn moves me. Sunflower makes me smile everyday. I feel very loved by her and I love her immensely! I'm looking forward to seeing my girl become a young lady, then an adult! I can't wait to see how she'll make her mark on the world!
What are your hopes for the future and how the world perceives down syndrome?
Mercedes: A kind, giving, and sincere heart
In addition to being a fabulous mommy, Mercedes is the owner of Little Messengers, a baby blanket shop launched in 2014 to promote goodwill purchasing for adoption & special needs support!️
Things to Remember
In a world where beauty standards are set to an almost-impossible high, it is important to remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that we define our own standards of beauty. Women like Jamie and Madeline are (hopefully) the first of many who will continue to push to redefine beauty standards in the eyes of media, and I am incredibly proud to live in a time where I get to witness such beautiful change.