NEW YORK, United States — Rosanne Stuart recalls attending an annual fashion parade with her daughter, Madeline, in their hometown of Brisbane, Australia, in 2015. In the midst of the high-energy glamour on the runway, Madeline, who has limited speech, turned to her mother and firmly announced that she would like to be a model.
Stuart, 46, who described her daughter as the kind of tomboy who would slip on a pair leggings and “throw football with the guys,” said that it was not something she had expected from Madeline, but she immediately supported her.
More than four years later, Madeline, now 21, is the first person with Down’s syndrome to ever stride down a runway as a model during New York Fashion Week. With more than 60 catwalks under her belt in cities including London, Paris and Dubai, Madeline’s disability has not appeared to be a hindrance.
“When she walked that first catwalk every single person in the audience appreciated her,” Stuart said. “It truly was the first time she was accepted.”
Madeline’s drive has not let up this year. She just finished strutting down the runway for seven designers during the 2018 New York Fashion Week and is continuing the fashion circuit to walk for seven more designers during 2018 London Fashion Week.
The fashion world more recently has embraced nontraditional models who are not typically white and thin. From top magazines to designers, more women of different races, sizes and abilities are being hired for runway and print work.
“I must say, I think things are getting a lot better, especially for Madeline,” Stuart said.
Like most models, Madeline starts off her day with a healthy breakfast then proceeds to her outfit fittings, gets her strawberry blonde hair and make-up done and prepares for her next runway appearance.