Fashion icon Madeline Stuart tells all about her new clothing line and much more in an exclusive interview during her 1st trip to the mile-high city.
Ever since Madeline Stuart’s career hit the ground running in 2015, she has traveled all over the world to spread her inspiring story of triumph through diversity. Madeline has gone down the catwalk at almost every major fashion show the industry has to offer-New York Fashion Week, Melange Fashion Week, Caspian Fashion, Runway Dubai, and Mercedes Benz Fashion Week China are just a few of the shows Madeline has walked in since the start of her modeling career a little over two years ago.
Besides her massive following on social media, Madeline has been featured in publications such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Women’s Weekly, New York Times, Elle, Marie Claire, and People Magazine. Madeline’s readership (reach & exposure measured by digital footprints) between all of these stories totals approximately 55 Billion. Even the Buzzfeed Article Madeline was featured in the dresses of 6 Disney Princesses received 33 million views alone. So when I say that Madeline’s story has rocked the fashion world to it’s core, it’s really an understatement.
Madeline is traveling all over the world to share her journey through her #BREAKINGTHEMOULDTOUR already with bookings for 2017 in Sweden, Russia, Dubai, Uganda, Lebanon, Beijing, Australia, India, London. With an international touring schedule that makes U2 and Elton John’s world tours seem like a cake walk, Madeline was still able to bless us with her presence when she stopped in Denver last week for 303 Magazine’s Denver Fashion Week 2017.
I had the honor of sitting down with Madeline and her mother Rosanne Stuart during their trip to the mile-high city. I had the opportunity to do an exclusive photo shoot with Madeline during her trip to Denver.
In addition to the photo shoot I had chance to interview Madeline and Ms. Stuart about their journey so far this year, Madeline’s favorite parts about America, details about Madeline’s new clothing line, discussing Madeline’s upcoming documentary, and all other aspects of the viral story that has proportionately reached newspapers and people’s hearts in every single imaginable corner of the globe.
Madeline and her mum Rosanne Stuart agreed to meet me and my photographer Juneau Wong on the Friday of DFW 2017. Originally we had planned to meet Madeline and Ms. Stuart at Civic Center Park, so that we could give them a short tour of the city while asking them some questions. Due to the cold weather, we met Madeline and Ms. Stuart at the Indigo Hotel Downtown Denver instead. Despite the weather induced change in venue, it played little to no role in successfully capturing Maddy’s elegant and lively spirit through pictures and interview questions. When meeting Madeline Stuart, her vibrant energy and contagious smile work in unison to instantaneously make you feel a close bond with her.
No amount of background research can adequately describe the magnitude of how truly special of an individual Madeline Stuart is in person (I prepped with at least 50+ articles for background research, so trust me on this one). Just as you will read in the Q&A interview portion of this article later on, the most substantial part about modeling for Madeline is the opportunity to meet new people and make personal connections with individuals all across the world. This is undeniably transparent upon meeting her for the first time; for Madeline its not about how many pictures you want to take or what monetary or material thing she will get out of talking to you. For Madeline Stuart its all about the personal connection you make with her and what fun activity you will be doing with her and her mum to ultimately be the memory she associates you with when recalling your time together later on in the future.
The day before the interview, Madeline closed out the opening night of Denver Fashion Week 2017 with the presentation of her new clothing line 21 Reasons by Madeline Stuart. Being the finale runway show of the night, the EXPO Center in Downtown Denver erupted with excitement as models walked down the runway in her new line’s outfits. Madeline walked in her line’s show as well, getting the first standing ovation of the night when walking down the runway with a smile that lights up the entire room.
When I asked Madeline & Rosanne Stuart about the meaning behind the “21 Reasons” title in Maddy’s new clothing line. One of the primary meanings of this name comes from a reference to the 21st Chromosome in the human genome. For those of you who are not aware; when someone has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in their genome, the extra DNA and genetic material alters the course of human development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. Since a large part of Madeline’s story involves her commitment to achieve her goals despite the obstacles she faces being born with down syndrome, this part of naming the line “21 Reasons” has a close personal association to Madeline and her story.
However, this is just one of the 21+ reasons behind naming her clothing line “21 Reasons by Madeline Stuart”. When I asked Madeline and her mother Rosanne if there was any additional meanings behind the title they had chosen for Madeline’s first clothing line, they responded
it includes the reasons we need to be better, the reasons we need to be better people. Being kinder, more considerate, more loving, more diversified… its reasons why we should start caring about one another instead of only caring about who is driving a Maserati… it’s the reasons we need to aim for peace and inclusion… it’s just all reasons why we all need to be better people and to treat each other better in order to make the world a better place.
21 Reasons by Madeline Stuart is a clothing line that accurately reflects not only who Madeline Stuart is as a person, but also a clothing line that represents her and her mum’s mission to inspire others to be better people. Even at the pinnacle of success for Madeline’s career, the determination to show the world anything is possible while simultaneously inspiring those around her to help make the world a better place has only increased tenfold.
Just like the fire from a single candle, sharing Madeline’s values acts as the candle’s flame in that it does not deplete it’s light by being shared but only grows in size the more it’s given to others.
I’d like to express my immeasurable gratitude to have had the opportunity to play a small part in bringing Madeline’s selfless and inspiring journey to those who may not have had the chance to hear about Maddy’s courage and bravery quite yet. Here is the remaining questions answered by Madeline and her mother Rosanne Stuart during our interview at the Indigo Hotel in Denver 2017.
Madeline Stuart Interview by Conner Siegel, 2017
Q: So Madeline, did you have a good time at the opening day of DFW last night? What’s been your favorite part of your trip America so far?
A: “Yes, I had a great time! The best part about my trip to America so far is the time I’ve spent in New York”
Q: What about New York made it the best part of your trip? The buildings? The fashion? The people?
A: “Being able to go down the catwalk at New York Fashion week was amazing and has made New York my favorite place in America.”
Q: So you walked in the NYC Fashion week? That’s one of the biggest fashion shows in the world! How did that feel?
Madeline: “It was a lot of fun, by far the best part of my trip so far.”
Rosanne: “It’s all about the cat walk! Maddy loves the catwalk”
Q: So how did you like Denver? I know New York is your favorite (I know a lot of people would agree with you btw!) but how has your trip here been so far? Is there anything you like about Denver, the fashion, the people?
A: “It’s been a little too cold, but I loved the designers at DFW and their lines. My favorite were the bikinis in the Femme Fatale Intimate runway show, it was the one I wanted to watch the most. I am also very excited for Gino Velardi’s show on Saturday, I will be walking in that show as well.
Q: Does it take a lot to prep for the shows? How long does it take to get ready?
A: “We were there from about 2pm until 12am last night, it takes a lot of prep work and a lot of patience, but it’s totally worth it! It’s not the best part, but it’s necessary to make it work.”
Q: So you presented your line last night “21 Reasons by Madeline Stuart” what’s the 21 reasons part mean?
A: “21 Reasons refers to the 21st chromosome (side note: when someone has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome in their genome the extra genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome) which has a very personal association with my life.”
Q: I absolutely love that, simply amazing! Thank you for sharing that with me, it brings so much more depth to understanding your line and it’s purpose. In terms of the clothes themselves, I noticed a lot of them were active clothes almost like it was gym wear. Did your background in dance play a significant role in making these clothes more active wear?
A: “Yes, it did represent my background in dance but it is more representative of who I am as a person. These are the type of clothes I wear at home or when I am just hanging out as well, it’s very comfortable for me. Leggings are great for the comfort especially for my body type. Basically its ready to wear and representative of 90% of my closet. The entire line was a complete reflection of who I am, what I wear, and a reflection of my personality.”
Q: According to all the major magazines, you’re considered the 1st professional model with down syndrome by the fashion industry. How does that feel?
A: “When I hear stuff like that, I always just relate back to my favorite part about modeling all together-and that is people. When I did my first NYC Fashion Week I had met Hendrik Vemeulen a designer from South Africa. He is my favorite designer but also when I think about being considered the 1st professional model with down syndrome, I more just relate back to how much I love meeting new interesting people along the way like Hendrik Vermeulen at NYC Fashion Week.”
Q: So in other words, for you it’s not really about the status or the popularity, it’s more about the joy you have modeling and the people you get to meet/interact with along the way?
A: Yes, exactly! When I hear that I think back to my first NYC Fashion show and how much I enjoyed meeting Hendrik Vermeulen from South Africa, for me it’s more about the people and the connections I make more than anything else”
Q: So tell me, how has it been going from being in Australia 2 years ago to traveling all over the world and being in America now?
A: “It’s been amazing, and its been exhausting. We have been on the road now for 22 months straight, and we will be going back home for the 1st time in that span of time after this weekend”
Q: It seems like 2 years ago after you went viral, your career absolutely took off! Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like?
Madeline: “Well as you know it all started with the “before” and “after” pictures we posted when I went through my weight loss change (40 pounds) that was inspired by my drive to become a model. After that went viral, we had been contacted by 3 companies to model for them all within a few weeks. Around the same period of time we had gotten a call about walking in New York Fashion week, and that was huge!”
Rosanne: “It was not long before we were doing Mercedes Benz Fashion Week China and even Runway Dubai. Before you know it we were in Lebanon, Ukraine, and even Uganda which was huge.”
Q: (to Rosanne)That’s incredible, can you tell me about the story in Uganda?
A: (Rosanne) “The trip to Uganda was a whole different story, it was a big trip because in Uganda they kill kids with disabilities. Maddy had gone on TV and within the 10 days we were there doing community service projects and appearances, 50 families (with kids who had disabilities) came out of hiding.”
Q: (to Rosanne) Wow…I’m speechless…that actually goes into the next topic I was going to ask. I know Madeline doesn’t think about herself as the true 1st model with a disability (as mentioned earlier she is more in it for the people in connections), but with all her popularity and the major impact she had in Uganda, she is a trail blazer!
A: (Rosanne)”She is SUCH a trail blazer, she is the very 1st professional model with a down syndrome to be the face of a cosmetic company, to have their own designer bag line, to walk in a major show in Paris, ever walk in Dubai, ever walk in China, first person with a disability to ever get a work visa for an “extraordinary person” specifically for modeling in the United States. In her field and with her disability she’s the first to ever accomplish these things in history.”
Q: (to Rosanne) Why do you think people with disabilities have had the stigmatizations they have had for such a long time (even now in the modern world).
A: (Rosanne) “Well let’s face it, only 50 years ago women weren’t allowed to vote. How long ago was it that we had slavery? Just 10 years before Madeline was born people use to perform open heart surgery on kids with down syndrome without using any form of pain meds or general Anastasia. They just assumed they couldn’t feel it or didn’t need it just because of their disorder”
A: (Rosanne) “People pretty recently use to think that having depression meant there was something wrong with you, now we know for a lot of people with depression disorders that it’s caused by an imbalance in your brain’s neurochemicals…so why do I think there is all this stigmatization surrounding people with disabilities? People really just don’t know any better or they just lack the education to know what they think or are saying is just not true.”
Q: (to Rosanne) So would you say it is just “the times”? Sort of how the world just changes over time in its perception of certain things?
A: (Rosanne) “Yes absolutely, people literally use to think that the world was flat…I mean some people still do (both laughing)..but yeah its just the things widely believed at the time….or at least until we know better.”
Q: (to Rosanne) Obviously what she is doing plays a huge role in transforming the entire world’s perception of people with disabilities-in a way she is “changing the times” right?
A: (Rosanne) “The world even 22 months ago (when Madeline started to hit the road) is a completely different place in it’s perception on disabilities then now. She is an ABSOLUTE GAME CHANGER.”
Q: (to Rosanne & Madeline) I 100% agree! I read that there was a documentary being made on your journey? Can you tell me a little about that?
A (Madeline): “Its been filmed over the course of the last year by a company called “Be Real” in Sweden. They have been filming since January of 2016 and is still filming now. They have followed Madeline all over from Paris to Australia.”
A: (Rosanne) “Its about her journey and how she has changed, how she has become so much more stimulated and engaged…the documentary is also showing the more stimulation given to someone with a disability the more engaged they become.”
Q: (to Rosanne) Can you tell me a little bit more about what you mean by stimulated/engaged?
A: (Rosanne) “Think about it, if you were at home every day watching telly, you wouldn’t be out doing stuff like you are now talking to me and Madeline. That kind of stuff can be scary and intimidating at first, but then it’s amazing and worth it you know?”
Q: (to Rosanne) Absolutely, so sort of the whole getting out of your comfort zone? But showing how doing this with a child who has a disability has even that much more effect on them?
A: (Rosanne) “Exactly, it shows her journey and how she has broken down her own walls as well as the societal walls surrounding kids with disabilities.”
Q: I mean personally, I think everything Madeline has accomplished is beyond extraordinary. I know that you think that to, you are her #1 fan. But it can be kind of hard to remember that Maddy is also a normal kind loving young adult, especially with all of this trail blazing she’s done.
A: (Rosanne) “Yes, but the funny thing is…if you think about someone like Karlie Kloss, she is the biggest super model in the world. In the modeling world Karlie Kloss-that’s the name. In the disability/special needs world, Madeline is the queen. She is the most famous person with a disability in the world…but you have to take that into perspective.”
Q: What do you mean? In relation to remembering she is a normal kid or the measurement of her success?
A: (Rosanne) “Well Madeline can’t compete head to head with Karlie Kloss, she has legs longer than Madeline’s entire body. But it’s all about perspective because Madeline and her niche in the modeling world is just different. But if you look at it this way, Madeline is unique because no matter how much popularity she has gained she has always been equally as personable while continuing to make connections with new people everywhere she goes.”
***In other words, Madeline Stuart might not be as tall as Karlie Kloss or as blonde as Heidi Klum. But Karlie and Heidi will simply never be as special in the same way as Madeline Stuart***
Q: (to Rosanne) What would you say to the parents who found out their child has down syndrome and they don’t know what to expect?
A: (Rosanne) “It makes me think about this one poem about special needs children I had heard a while ago. It talks about taking off on your flight expecting to arrive at one destination, but when you land somewhere else its a shock. Initially you think about everything you’re missing at the destination you were expecting. But after you explore the place you have landed instead, you start to realize how amazing the place you actually ended up at & how beautiful of a place you would have missed if you never landed here by random”
A: (Rosanne) “Basically, having a child with down syndrome is the same as any other kid, they still get depressed, they still get their teeth (but just a different number and amount), and they still have a favorite type of food or a favorite movie. Having a child with a disability isn’t harder, its just different. Having a child with a disability isn’t worse, landing at the unexpected destination is equally as beautiful as the destination you originally expected to land-it’s just different.”
Side Note: Rosanne was referring to the poem “Welcome to Holland” written by Emily Perl Kingsley who is an advocate for people with disabilities like her son, Jason (who was born with Down syndrome).
Continue to follow Madeline Stuart’s story across the world by following Her Facebook for the latest news and updates about her incredible journey into 2017 and beyond. (www.madelinestuartmodel.com)
Credits & Special Thanks
–Special Thank You to Rosanne Stuart for being so wonderful and helpful arranging everything from the photo shoot, to the interview, and everything else after and in-between. Without you absolutely none of this would be possible, so from the bottom of my heart..THANK YOU!
–Special Shout out to the photographer on this project Juneau Wong, you did an absolutely incredible job with the pictures not only for Madeline’s shoot, but also for the entire DFW as a whole. You are very talented and anyone who see’s this article and wondered who took these timeless shots, click on Juneau’s link and check him out!
–Thanks to Gino Velardi for providing Madeline with such an exquisite dress to wear for the photo shoot. It’s a one of a kind piece and we all want to say thank you for your amazing work.
–Thanks to 303 Magazine (especially Ab Aharonian-owner of 303 Magazine and founder of DFW) for providing Ms. Stuarts contact information and making this interview possible.
–Thank you to Jess Nordstrom for doing Madeline’s hair for the shoot, you did a wonderful job. Also, thank you to Andria Bade for doing Madeline’s makeup for the photo shoot as well she looked amazing and you also did a wonderful job.