Madeline Stuart continues to storm the runway with a smile, inspiring diversity and Down syndrome awareness in the fashion world.
When Australia-based model Madeline Stuart walks down the runway at New York Fashion Week, she doesn’t don a serious expression with a tailored walk. Instead, she celebrates. As she makes her way back up the runway, she holds out a hand for high fives. As a model and designer, Madeline Stuart promotes Down syndrome awareness by doing something she loves.
How the Journey Started
In 2015, Madeline Stuart recognized that Down syndrome predisposed her to a slower metabolism, which caused her to gain weight. She turned this fact on its head with her famous May 12 Facebook post, which announced her choice to live a healthy lifestyle and documented her physical transformation over an 18-month period.
Her mother created social media profiles on multiple platforms and posted her before-and-after pictures, and Madeline’s story went viral overnight. Madeline was certainly achieving the goal to influence others to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Within a mere two weeks of going viral, she landed her first-ever modeling gig in Brisbane and has been modeling ever since. “My first modeling shoot was so exciting,” Madeline said. “Not only was I modeling, but our biggest breakfast show came and filmed it and I did my first interview for TV. I got to model five outfits and had the best day ever.”
Since then, Madeline has been the face of a lipstick brand, has had handbags named in her honor (the brand donates a percentage of sales of the bag to The National Down Syndrome Society) and she was even named Model of the Year at Melange in 2015. Last month the Australian model walked the catwalk for her fifth seasons of NYFW, and in November she’ll return to the U.S. to attend the Global Down Syndrome Foundation’s Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show, where she’ll receive the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award.
Redefining “Dance Mom”
In the beginning, getting a personal trainer and eating right were only portions of Madeline’s transformation. Her main objective was to be able to dance. Her love for this art form inspired a whole new path: opening a studio with her friend and mother.
Now known as the Inside Outside Theatre Company, the studio is an inclusive space where people with and without disabilities can practice their craft. A whole portion of their website is dedicated to people with disabilities, creating easy access to workshops and productions to get involved in. Madeline adorns the top of the web page, providing an inspirational face of success, a model for accomplishment and beauty.
Madeline’s mother has adopted a whole new life, leaving her former job and committing to her daughter’s passions by assisting Madeline with running the studio, helping inspire her new fashion line and supporting her through a busy international modeling schedule.
Modeling with Down Syndrome
For Madeline, this journey into stardom hasn’t been easy. Both Madeline and her mother knew this career path would be a lot of work. Madeline says that modeling has required her to stay focused and work harder than ever.
She explains her experience working as a model with Down syndrome versus simply being a model: “I have worked on a few shows with other models with Down syndrome and that was fun, but different, as sometimes people don’t expect as much if it is a show for mainly models with Down syndrome. When I work at shows like NYFW, I am expected to work as hard as everyone else and be treated the same.”
Through her determination and positivity, she’s able to open minds, increase diversity and Down syndrome awareness in the fashion world and encourage others to chase their dreams.
21 Reasons Why
In February of 2017 Madeline launched her own fashion line called 21 Reasons Why, and last month at NYFW she launched the second collection of the brand.
After always getting questions about her clothing, Madeline mused with her mother about designing a line that made people feel good. And this line carries a special meaning: “The number 21 in the name of the brand comes from two factors: the 21st chromosome that represents Down syndrome, and the fact everyone looks forward to turning 21 and it being a happy, exciting time of your life. The second part of the name, Reasons Why, is all the reasons we can be better people, more inclusive, more loving, kinder to ourselves and others. There are always many reasons why we can be better and evolve to improve ourselves, our planet and the love we show to others,” Madeline said.
Madeline has shown the world something everyone needs to see: that there is power behind overcoming every challenge we face, and she does so with such positivity and grace. She says it perfectly: “I hope people will start to understand that everyone is capable if you give them a chance, and we need to be more inclusive in our world. Just because my features may be different than yours does not mean I am different. I still want to love, be loved and to be successful in my dreams.”