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On The Record: Madeline Stuart Fashion’s First Runway Model With Down Syndrome

* Madeline Stuart making waves as new face in modeling industry
* Stuart has down syndrome but has defied odds and stereotypes to become a model
* Just walked in New York Fashion Week

Madeline Stuart is redefining traditional beauty standards one runway at a time. The 21 year-old Australian, known to the world as fashion’s first model with down syndrome, just finished her sixth season walking in New York Fashion Week and her story is one of perseverance and determination.

Stuart’s fame all started when photos of her doing a casual photoshoot in 2015 went viral on Facebook. Now Stuart travels to all parts of the world to walk in fashion shows for top designers while spreading her message of awareness and inclusiveness for people with disabilities.

We had a chance to catch up with Stuart after she walked in the recent Los Angeles Fashion Week, and we found out more about how she got her start, the biggest obstacles she’s had to overcome, and the must-have products she can’t leave home without.

SPY: What made you want to become a model ?

Madeline Stuart: My mum took me to a fashion show in my home town of Brisbane when I was 17 and I instantly fell in love. I was inspired by the energy on the runway, the models were confident, beautiful and having so much fun. I knew straight away it was something I wanted to try, and turns out I love the catwalk more than anything.

SPY: How did you get started in the modeling industry?

Stuart: My career certainly began a little differently to most models. After the initial fashion show I watched with my mum, we booked my first photo shoot so I could see if I would enjoy modeling. I had so much fun at the shoot and the photos were amazing! My mum thought they were absolutely stunning and she wanted to share them with the world. She posted them to a public Facebook page and overnight they went viral. They were seen by millions of people! It wasn’t long before I was receiving calls and emails asking if I would come and model in NYFW and that’s exactly what we did. My career has continued to grow from there.

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SPY: Who is your biggest inspiration/role model?

Stuart: Within the modeling industry my biggest role model and inspiration is Karlie Kloss. She does amazing work and is very talented; she also advocates for some very important issues which I love and respect. However, my mum is my biggest role model in life. She is the strongest person I know and has taught me everything, and she definitely brings out the best in me. She reminds me each day that I am beautiful, loved and kind and that is all that matters.

SPY: You’ve shot photos, but also strutted down the catwalk. What is the feeling you get when you are walking down the runway?

Stuart: It is an incredible feeling that is very hard to describe. I am happy, proud and excited all at the same time when I’m on the catwalk. I feel very at home in New York now and being on the catwalk there is my favorite thing.

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Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart

SPY: What has been your favorite show to walk in thus far?

Stuart: My favorite show to walk in is still the very first show I ever walked at NYFW. I walked for a designer, Hendrik Vermeulen. He was so incredible, very talented and humble. We had similar beliefs on changing and inspiring the world. I really believed in what he was doing, and to be able to walk for someone so wonderful for my first catwalk is an experience I will never forget.

SPY: What has been the hardest obstacle to overcome as a model with down syndrome?

Stuart: Throughout my career, some designers have found it difficult to see me as a professional model. They would offer me to walk in their shows for free or for the “experience.” I had worked extremely hard to become an established model so it was very disheartening when I wasn’t taken seriously and treated like other professionals.

Over the past few years, my mum and I have worked tirelessly to educate the industry that I am a valued asset to any show and I am a dedicated and hard worker. We are starting to see serious changes within the industry and I am happy to say that I am now treated just like everyone else and it makes me very proud to see changes like this happening!

SPY: What advice would you give to other young women with disabilities who have big dreams?

Stuart: The best advice I could give is to work hard and never give up on your goals. I know a lot of people who give up when things get difficult. If you are prepared to work hard and put in the hours to achieve your goals, you will.

For those wanting to start a modeling career, my advice would be to know your worth and be strong! There is a lot of rejection involved in modeling and sometimes it can be hard, but I have learned that setbacks only make you stronger and you will come out the other side a better person.

SPY: What improvements can the fashion industry make to be more inclusive of people with disabilities?

Stuart: Inclusiveness has become a big talking point within the fashion industry. As it is becoming more prevalent, people are trying to find more ways they can improve diversity on the catwalks, which is amazing. However, some of these ideas are not always working towards that goal. An example of this is runway shows specifically for people with disabilities. Even though they may have the right intentions when creating these events, I do not believe that they are being inclusive or promoting diversity. I think they are actually working in the opposite direction – they are segregating groups of people. We don’t want runways for people with disabilities and separate runways for people without. We want everyone together because we are all the same and deserve to be treated the same.

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Image courtesy of Madeline Stuart

SPY: How would you describe the style of your clothing line, 21 Reasons Why ?

Stuart: My latest collection is my favorite and it is a beach wear style. It’s a summer look, with bright vibrant splashes of color. My collection represents me entirely so my outgoing, loving, and colorful personality shines through my clothing.

SPY: What do you do to relax in the middle of a busy show week?

Stuart: In the middle of a busy show week I have no time to relax! We are very busy going from hair and make-up to run-throughs to shows and then attending runway events. We have no time to relax but I love it! When we are home between fashion weeks I like to go to the gym, dance class and hang out with my friends.

SPY: What are some must-have products you always have with you?

Stuart: My key essentials are sunscreen to protect my skin from the strong Australian sun, moisturizer, and a good quality shampoo and conditioner.

Inspired by Stuart’s must-haves, we’ve found four products you should add to your daily routine – whether you’re a budding supermodel, or just strutting down the sidewalk on your way to school or work.

1. La Roche-Posay Anthellos Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen

This sunscreen is great for people with sensitive skin, pale skin, or if you are frequently in this sun as Stuart is. It’s Cell-OX Shield technology prevents breakouts and allows for a shine-free finish, making it a great option if you plan on being behind a camera. Its unique oil-absorbing complex allows for a quick and easy application, leaving your skin protected and grease free.


 2.Christina Moss Organic Facial Moisturizer

Keeping your skin hydrated helps prevent wrinkles and dullness. This Christina Moss Organic moisturizer is toxin-free and made with natural ingredients, giving the cream a mild licorice scent that evaporates shortly after application. This concentrated moisturizer is great for all skin types and promises to hydrate without stripping your skin of its natural oils, drying or leaving build up .


3. Pureology Hydrate Shampoo

Stuart is known for her long luscious locks. One way she keeps them shiny and healthy is by using good quality shampoo. Pureology Hydrate Shampoo is used by hair professionals all around the world because of its sulfate-free hydrating formula. If you are someone who styles you hair often like Stuart does, this shampoo will help protect your hair against heat and keep your color vibrant.

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Image Courtesy of Ulta


4. Pureology Hydrate Conditioner

Exceptional conditioner is a vital part of achieving healthy hair. Pureology Hydrate Conditioner is a great way to get Stuart’s shiny locks. This hydrating 100% vegan conditioner nourishes with natural ingredients such as jojoba, green tea, and sage. For gals or guys who regularly apply heat to their hair, this conditioner will help strengthen your strands, and prevent hair breakage .


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Image Courtesy of Ulta

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