Madeline Stuart is the modeling industry’s newest trailblazer. This is her inspiring story that has reached the hearts of people all across the world.
At one time or another, everyone dreams of growing up to be something that tickles the furthest limits of their imagination. An astronaut that floats among stars in space’s zero gravity, a rock-star playing their music in front of 100,000 fans, or even a professional athlete lifting up the Lombardi trophy or winning an Olympic gold medal. We day-dreamed about being all of these things in class or maybe even pretended to be them on the playground with our friends during recess. But whether it was because the actual work of following these dreams seemed just too improbable, or we regretfully paid too much attention to that one unfaithful person in our lives who told us our dreams were “just not realistic,” far too many people regrettably give up hope on achieving the ambitions sewn to their heart before even attempting to try.
These people haven’t had the pleasure of meeting 20 year old model & designer Madeline Stuart of Brisbane, Australia.
Madeline was born with Down syndrome, but with the help of her loving and supportive mum and a genuine passion-for-fashion, Madeline set sail to follow her dreams of being a professional model that would one day walk down every major catwalk in the fashion world. Where one person may view being born with a disability as a disqualification for a spectrum of professions, Madeline and her mother Rosanne Stuart viewed it as something that uniquely makes you stand out from the others chasing the same dream as yourself. In Madeline’s case, it was taken a step even further. To the Stuarts, being born with Down syndrome was not only something that made Madeline stand out from her peers, but it would also provide a unique chance to help improve society’s contorted perception of those who are born with disabilities just like Madeline.
When Madeline told her mother she wanted to be a model, rather than telling Maddy, “sorry that will never happen, it’s just too unrealistic”, her mum responded, “it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication, but if you’re willing to commit to the journey, I will fully support you.” In an interview with Madeline and her mother Rosanne during their visit to Denver, I asked about the initial conversation Ms. Stuart had with Madeline about her dream being a model. After Madeline told her mum she wanted to be a model, her mum said, “whatever Madeline wants to do, I will try to make it happen. That’s just me, that’s just who I am.” Rosanne continued, “When your child with a disability… or really any child at all… tells you as their parent that they want to be something, you don’t just give them a negative answer or something that can be viewed as negative.”
Luckily for us, Madeline had her mother as her amazing support structure and was armed with an unyielding will to chase after her dreams. Madeline’s adventure all started when she had made the commitment to lose weight in order to be healthy and able to continue her passion of dancing all while chasing her dream of becoming a model. As most people with down syndrome sometimes struggle with their weight, no predisposition could measure up to the fearless motivation to succeed that Madeline had running through her veins.
After working out and healthy dieting, Madeline had gone through a complete transformation by losing 20kg (a little over 40 pounds)! Once the before and after pictures of Madeline’s weight loss transformation (shown above) were posted on social media, her story had gone completely viral. Within a few days, the transformation photo that is credited for starting Maddy’s career was viewed over 6.8 million times while her social media presence grew by over 100,000 followers.
It wasn’t long before the Stuarts’ phone was ringing off the hook, with 3 companies immediately contacting them with modeling job offers. Within the next few weeks, Madeline’s career would take an even more substantial leap forward when another phone called was received in response to the viral photo, “around the same time period, we had gotten a call about having Maddy walking in New York Fashion Week, and that was huge!” In just a few short weeks of showing the world her hard work and commitment to become a healthier person, Madeline Stuart was on a fast track into the modeling world with an offer to walk in the famous New York Fashion Week. This is where Madeline’s career in modeling would truly start to gain ground.
At New York Fashion Week, Madeline met the South African Designer Hendrik Vemeulen, who not only dressed Madeline in his designs for the catwalk, but would also become Madeline’s favorite designer and the living breathing example of why Madeline loves to model. When you ask any up-and-coming model how it felt to be invited to the New York Fashion Week cat walk, most would talk about the recognition, the glamour, the status, or maybe even the feeling of being officially recognized as a model for the fashion industry. But when I asked Madeline how it felt to be considered the 1st ever professional model with down syndrome by the fashion industry, her response was “When I hear stuff like that (being considered the 1st professional model with down syndrome) I always relate back to my favorite part about modeling all together, and that is the people.”
She continued to talk about New York Fashion Week and how it recognized her as a professional model in the industry. “When I did my first NYC Fashion Week, I had met Hendrik Vemeulen, a designer from South Africa. Things such as meeting Hendrik is what I think about when people ask me how it feels to be recognized as the very 1st professional. I just love meeting new and interesting people like Hendrik at my first NYC fashion week.”
So for Madeline Stuart, the primary reason she has such a deep passion for modeling is the people she gets to meet and connect with along the way. This root of Madeline’s selfless passion for fashion in no way effects the success of her career. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Madeline is not only considered the 1st professional model with down syndrome, but she has also walked in shows such as New York Fashion Week, Art Hearts Fashion Week, Style Fashion Week, Melange Fashion Week, Caspian Fashion, Runway Dubai, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week China, Birmingham Fashion Week, Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival. She has also been discussed in major publications such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Women’s Weekly, New York Times, Elle, Marie Claire, People (just to name a few).
As Madeline continues to be one of the most successful models in the industry, every story written and shared about Madeline Stuart reaches tenfold the number of people impacted by the inspiration that comes alongside sharing her journey.
Despite the fact Madeline may not refer to herself as such, there is no dispute that she is the very definition of a trailblazer. Besides breaching the societal boundaries of what is expected of someone to be a professional model (or any other profession really), Madeline continues push the bounds even further past the moment she shattered the glass ceiling.
Madeline is also the very 1st professional model with down syndrome to be the face of a cosmetic company, as well as have her own designer bag line (“The Madeline”). She is also the first model with a disability to ever walk in a major fashion show in Paris, walk in major show in Dubai, as well as to walk in a major show in China.
All of this success not only redefines what someone born with a disability can truly accomplish if they put their mind to it, but gives faith for all of those struggling to find the motivation see past the seemingly improbable obstacles obstructing the view of their goals.
This is something that makes Madeline’s story that much more exemplary. On top of the personal obstacles she has had to overcome just to accomplish her goals, Madeline and her mother had decided that part of her journey would include taking the hand of all others struggling to find the motive to go for gold (whether born with a disability or not). It’s one thing to swim upstream and against the current of expectations to achieve your goals, but to do it while grabbing the hands of those also struggling to find the motivation to keep moving forward against the grain, is nothing less than extraordinary.
People who struggled to find a reason to keep going, to find a motive in order to accomplish their goals, or even as to feel that they are not alone in their struggle, have all been given new faith and inspiration of their own after reading Madeline’s inspiring story. When I asked if anyone had reached out to Madeline or her mother to tell them how Madeline’s story has inspired them, Rosanne said, “we’ve had people call us and tell us they have finally been able to give up drugs and be sober after reading Madeline’s story. There has been parents who don’t really know what to do after they found out their child has down syndrome but when they see Madeline’s story, they give us a call just to tell us that they are now excited and have so much added faith after hearing Maddy’s story.”
The impact of Madeline’s inspiring story does not stop there either; during her trip to Uganda Maddy’s story had made a monumental impact in that community in just the 10 days she spent there. Uganda is a place where children born with disabilities are still killed simply for being born with a disability like down syndrome or autism. During her trip to Uganda, Madeline had gone on TV to share her story with the local community, as well as participating in talks at support groups and schools with EmbraceKulture (who was Maddy’s ambassador for the trip). After all these things, including a TV interview, the light had shined upon 50 Families who had a child with a disability to give them the courage to come out of hiding. Many of these families had been hiding their whole lives, living in fear that their child’s disability would bring them so far out of the norm that their child might be killed. Seeing Madeline’s story on TV had given these families what they needed to live out in the open, no longer in fear that people will fail to realize the incredibly spirits of their children born with a disability.
These are just a few of the ways Madeline’s journey has succeeded in making the world a better place. Madeline’s vibrant personality, hard work ethic, and selfless mission to transform the world into an understanding and caring place, are all just a small handful of the reasons Madeline has also been so incredibly successful.
Her Journey Continues…
Even with so much success in such a short time, Madeline does not plan on stopping anytime soon. In fact, you can expect to hear about Madeline a lot more in the future as well. Madeline has already booked work for 2017 in Sweden, Russia, Dubai, Uganda, Lebanon, Beijing, Australia, India, London, Albania, Serbia, and America. With every new place Madeline and her mother visit, even more people feel the positive impact of this brave and beautiful young lady’s story.
A documentary is currently being made on Madeline and her journey. It started filming in January of 2016 and will be released sometime in 2018. Madeline is also currently on her #BREAKINGTHEMOULDTOUR all around the world, and made a pit stop last weekend in Denver for the city’s Denver Fashion Week 2017.
CLICK HERE to read about Madeline’s appearance at DFW2017!