The fashion and beauty industry is notorious for portraying unrealistic standards of beauty on a daily basis. Women often feel as if they cannot relate to the tall, thin, often white, and statuesque women portrayed on the runways, on television and in magazines.
But in recent years, social media campaigns are attempting to deconstruct these unrealistic beauty standards and to help make space for the representation for all individuals in the media.
Take, for example, the efforts of one young Australian woman.
Madeline Stuart is 18 years old and from Brisbane, Australia. The teen loves activities like dance and cheerleading, and is an aspiring model.
Madeline Stuart also has Down syndrome.
In the past, the fashion industry has not made very much room for individuals with disabilities. But that didn’t stop Madeline.
“Madeline has always done whatever she wanted,” her mother told the New York Daily News.
In 2014, Madeline decided that she wanted to be a model. With the help of her mother, the teen lost 40 pounds and began her journey toward achieving her dreams.
Afterwards, her mother hired a photographer and took a series of breathtaking headshots of Madeline, which the two posted online soon after.
From there, Madeline’s story went viral. Her Facebook page received such positive and overwhelming feedback that Stuart’s mother considered hiring a separate publicist.
The teen has since landed several modeling jobs for big campaigns, including EverMaya, a Rochester-based Guatemalan lifestyle brand.
One of the top reasons that people follow brands on blogs and social media sites is due to interesting content. However, EverMaya was clear on their blog that their decision to hire Madeline was purely based on her beauty, inner joy, and confidence.
“Let me be clear here,” the post reads. “Madeline Stuart is not a ‘beautiful young woman with Down syndrome,’ rather she is beautiful – full stop.”
And this beauty is getting the attention of even larger fashion syndicates. This fall, Madeline will be gracing the runways of New York’s Fashion Week.
The young woman’s success casts a bright and promising light on the future of representation in fashion.
“People with disabilities often feel very alone,” Mrs. Stuart told the NY Daily News. “Maddy is teaching society to give them a chance.”