BRISBANE, Australia — A teenage girl with Down syndrome is looking to challenge perceptions of conventional beauty by pursuing a modeling career.
Madeline Stuart, 18, from Brisbane, Australia, struggled with weight gain for much of her life, a common problem for people with Down syndrome. But after shedding 40 pounds, Stuart is now chasing her dream of walking down a runway.
According to the Daily Mail, Stuart made the drastic life change by swimming five times a week, as well as cheerleading and hip-hop dancing. She also trained for “several” sports with the Special Olympics, Fusion reported.
In July she plans to travel to the U.S. to compete in dancing competitions with her dance group Bust a Move, which comprises teens and young adults with disabilities, the Daily Mail reports.
Stuart considers her disability a gift, the Daily Mail reports. With her new lease on life, Stuart wants to be a professional model.
“She loves the attention when she is up on the stage, doing a play or competing in gymnastics or cheer, and I have always taken millions of photos of her so she loves the camera,” her mother Roseanne told the Daily Mail.
Stuart has taken to outlets such as Facebook and Instagram in hopes she can land a modeling gig through an agent.
“Only when she gets lots of attention through social media will the modeling world look at her, this is unfortunate but true and she really wants to change the way people discriminate against disability,” Rosanne said.
Her Instagram biography puts it simply: “Hi my name is Madeline and I want to be a model, I am 18 and have down syndrome.”
“If the average person could see the beauty Maddy has inside, how loving and caring she is and if that is what people measured beauty on, then most of the models in the world would have Down syndrome,” Stuart’s mother told the Daily Mail.
Her mother told Buzzfeed when Madeline was a baby people used to tell her she shouldn’t be in public. She said society is more understanding now, and she and the girl are trying to capitalize.
“People need to see how she shines, how her personality just bursts out,” the mother said.