Down teen and bionic model walk at NY fashion week

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Madeline Stuart is a beautiful, bubbly red head who at 18 is already a professional model with a handbag named after her.

What is remarkable is that she has Down’s Syndrome.

Born and bred in Australia, she flew 28 hours across the world to take part in New York fashion week, where on Sunday she will tread the runway twice — in couture and resort wear.

She is not the first Down’s model to walk in New York but her mother celebrates her inclusion as a sign that the stiff, intimidating world of fashion is slowly opening up to more diverse women.

“Madeline is very excited,” her mother Rosanne Stuart told AFP backstage at rehearsals for Sunday’s show at Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Station — one of Manhattan’s best-loved landmarks.

“I think it’s amazing that she’s been given this opportunity. It’s a fantastic platform for us to get our beliefs across on inclusion and disability.”

The show is organized by fashion producers FTL MODA with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and Models of Diversity, a British group that campaigns for diversity in the fashion industry.

Stuart speaks for Madeline, saying it is difficult for strangers to understand her speech. Backstage, Madeline was reveling in the attention.

“She likes to be in the spotlight and she likes people to notice her and she thinks she’s pretty cool,” said Stuart.

– More open now –

Madeline’s career took off when Stuart uploaded photographs of her in May to Facebook, where they quickly went viral.

Within a week, she had 20,000 followers. Today, her Facebook page has been liked by nearly half a million people.

A company called EverMaya has named a handbag after her and donates its sales to the National Down Syndrome society.

She has become the face of cosmetics company Glossigirl and FTL MODA contacted them a month ago, inviting them to New York fashion week.

The Stuarts head next to the West Coat, where Madeline will collect a prize as model of the year.

There are further plans to visit Sweden and even Russia, and she has been nominated for awards in Australia.

It’s a far cry from the discrimination Rosanne recalls when Madeline was born, being abused in the park and the isolation of living with disability.

“I think people are a lot more open now,” she said. “Social media has brought everything to the forefront. Things aren’t hidden anymore.”

If just one parent of a Down’s child believes their kids can have a great life as a result of Madeline’s example, she will feel happy, Stuart said.

– Bionic model –

Another model walking in the show is Rebekah Marine, 28, a car saleswoman from New Jersey. Born without a right arm, she is proud to be called “bionic model.”

“It gives what I’m doing more of an edge, so I think it’s pretty cool. A lot of kids think I’m like a superhero now,” she joked.

Marine is a stunning brunette — the epitome of health with sun-kissed skin and an incredible smile, but not the statuesque, rake-thin, racehorse-limbed model favored by many in the high fashion world.

Despite her disability, she dreamed of being a model as a child, and went to auditions and photo shoots with her mother but was always turned away.

“I think the fashion industry has come a long way,” she told AFP.

“I think a lot of brands are very hesitant to include models that aren’t necessarily five nine, skinny, blue eyed, blonde.

“So it’s a challenge but we’re definitely making progress and it’s so awesome to be a part of that.”

Marine is a motivational speaker and a spokeswoman for her new i-limb — an incredible state-of-the-art prosthesis.

Its sensors allow her to manipulate its fingers and thumb, allowing her to do little things that others take for granted, such as holding a pot of yogurt or cutting meat using a knife and a fork.

“If I died tonight, I’d be like the happiest person in the world,” Marine said.

“I think I’ve made an impact on people and that’s all I could really ask for, is to just change people’s lives.”

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  • Elijahnyangwara

    Beth,Thanks this will help create public awareness on this issue and allow other leaders to be open about such issues…All the best Waziri

  • Anonymous

    Pole madam but your revelation is an act of strength and courage that will not only encourage others who are suffering from the disease but will also encourage each one of each to take frequent medical check-ups seriously. And while at it madam with the assistance of your Medical service counterpart who is also a cancer survivor, kindly press the government to allocate more funds to public health and public hospitals and in particular to equip our hospitals and medical centres.

  • Nash

    Pole waziri.  There are however many of us who can’t
    afford medicare in expensive hospitals in the US. Kindly tell PNU to make
    improvement of healthcare a key pillar of their 2012 campaign otherwise they
    can forget my vote. All the best as you return to America for further medicare.

  • Francis

    Thanks MAMA for your courage.You have been an inspiration to many.Your love for your country that you have so faithfully served will surely find favor with the almighty.When the world is so filled with selfish/arrogant people you have remained with the common person on the ground.You have stood/fought for the women/girls of our country by being a shinning example of what it means to SERVE.Now you have taught them the greatest lesson of ALL-COURAGE! You have used your pain/suffering to stand tall for all our mothers/wifes/sisters and lovely daughters wherever they are.As you continue with treatment-KEEP ON SMILING BETH-LET THE SCARS BE THE JEWEL ON YOUR CROWN OF COURAGE FOR YOU FIGHT FOR MANY.May God fill your family with hope and thanksgiving and remember you are not alone- we pray for you and and all those who have had to suffer such pain.

    • Lucas

      “A shining example of what it means to SERVE”? Please take your medication dude.

  • Lucas

    Is this worth reporting? Just because some minister (probably corrupt too) announces they had cancer makes them a hero? I don’t think so.
    There are so many Kenyans who died because of debilitating diseases, some of which could have been treated. These Kenyans did not have an opportunity to fly out of the country to seek treatment.
    Any smart person (other than these fleecers in government) would want to invest in health equipment and training health workforce. Furthermore, the minister quips that women ought to seek mammography, yet the process is unaffordable to women making meagre earnings. Please walk the talk, not bullshizzing.
    Worthless reporting!

    • elle

      I agree. The two health ministers were supposed to use their experience to make cancer diagnosis and treatment better for Kenyans (real leadership)….not just fly abroad, get treated and come blowing their horns. How has her experienced reduced cost of chemo? Until it does, her ‘story’ is just worthless.

  • Patmuriithi

    Pole waziri, you are lucky and you’ll get even better

  • Annenjoroge_2001

    I am with you deeply in prayers.  I know in all you do the angels will be watching over you !!!!

  • Fiona Ingolo

    Beth mugo starts telling us how she is battling breast cancer and how early detection saved her.wtf?with all her money ofcourse she could afford early detection what about ordinary womenfolk?how exactly has she run that ka ministry of hers to ensure quality healthcare to all kenyans. I dont care about your public procalmations, are there more radiotherapy and chemotherapy machines in the country since you went to MoH? If healthcare is so good here why did you have to go all the way to the US to get treated?

    I am sorry you are battling this but i couldnt care cos i lost a friend at 21 to breast cancer because the treatment facilities are lacking here and she never had the priviledge of being an MPig to siphon public funds in order to afford overseas treatment.

  • Elijah Andika

    It is important to pray for one another, for we are all victims. According to law one is innocent until proved guilty but with cancer and many other diseases one is sick until proved healthy! If you are convinced you are healthy raise up your hand to be seen.

  • Anthonynderitu

    Kudos Beth on your courage. I am glad u r ok now. I can’t believe how some of us Kenyans behave or think. So Beth should not seek medical care abroad so that she can die just like that? Stop being hypocrates. If you were the ones sick would have opted to be treated here while you had the chance to go abroad? Do you know how many poor people go abroad after holding harambees? C’mon people we can’t take such crap. My advice is that you work very hard so that you can take care of your medical bills wherever you want in the world and stop feeding people with your hypocritical views.
    I challenge any of you to abscond medication and watch yourself die and once we meet up there when i die later you will tell me how stupid you were to die of disease while you could afford medication. To all dear Kenyans, kindly go for mammograms so that you can be safe from the killer disease. Early treatment is very important as it saves in all ways. It saves cost and most importantly life.

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