Madeline Stuart, the world’s most famous model with Down syndrome, continues to break down barriers.

Madeline Stuart walks 2015 NYFW runway
Via Instagram

Within the last year, 18-year-old Stuart has taken the world by storm. She’s already booked contracts with brands Manifesta and Living Dead Clothing, is the first face behind the GlossiGirl Cosmetics “Beauty Is…” campaign, has a one-of-a-kind doll made after her, launched her own handbag line with a fashion company called EverMaya, and has now walked the catwalk during New York Fashion Week for FTL Moda.

FTL Moda ad for 2015 NYFW featuring Madeline Stuart
Courtesy of Rosanne Stuart

Madeline is very excited,” her mother, Rosanne Stuart, told AFP backstage at rehearsals for Sunday’s show. “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 took place in New York City’s Vanderbilt Hall on Sunday, September 13 and Stuart took two trips down the runway — one for resort wear, the other for couture.

See Madeline in her couture outfit in the video below:


The FTL Moda show featured several models with disabilites, including Rebekah Marine, 28, a car saleswoman from New Jersey who was born without a right arm. She is proudly called the “bionic model” because of her prosthesis, AFP reported.

FTL Moda ad for 2015 New York Fashion Week
Via Instagram

The show was organized with the help of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and Models of Diversity, a British group that campaigns for diversity in the fashion industry.

See photos from the inclusive show below: 

Photo of three models with disabilities on the runway at FTL Moda 2015 NYFW show
Via Instagram

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 8.17.43 AM
Via Instagram

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 8.18.48 AM
Via Instagram
Madeline Stuart on the 2015 New York Fashion Week runway
Via Instagram

Model on the runway at 2015 NYFW
Via Instagram
Madeline Stuart next to two men at FTL Moda 2015 NYFW show
Via Instagram
Madeline Stuart walking the runway with two men at 2015 NYFW
Via Instagram
Madeline Stuart walking the 2015 NYFW runway
Via Instagram

Correction: A previous version of this post called FTL Moda a “designer,” but it is in fact a production company.

Related: Behind the Scenes With the World’s Most Famous Model With Down Syndrome


Connie-Rose Seabourne is a star on the rise.

The 2-year-old from Morley, England, has Down syndrome and is a child model. It all started when Connie-Rose’s mother, Julie Britton, sent an email to some agencies after people repeatedly told her that her daughter should model, according to the video below. Several agencies responded that they were interested, and now Connie-Rose is being put forward for commercial advertisements and television spots.

Connie is an absolutely delightful, lovely little girl,” Britton says in the video below. “She’s full of character, full of personality, a little bit naughty, and she’s absolutely beautiful.”

Connie Rose Seabourne, aged 2 in dress smiling
Ross Parry


The agencies didn’t care one bit about Connie-Rose having Down syndrome, and she’s already received two contracts, The Daily Mail reported. Britton says she can’t currently disclose who the contracts are with or what they entail.

When her daughter is not in front of the camera, Britton likes to take Connie-Rose to visit parents in the hospital whose children have just been diagnosed with Down syndrome. Britton hopes to spread awareness and educate people.

Connie Rose Seabourne, aged 2 in dress smiling
Ross Parry

Some parents struggle with the idea of Down syndrome initially and think that life isn’t going to be the same again. I try to explain just how much support there is out there for them,” Britton told The Daily Mail. “Connie-Rose’s disability does not define who she is… She has Down syndrome, it’s not that she is Down syndrome. That’s the major problem we face but that’s about education.”

Check out the video below for more from Connie-Rose:

Two years ago, I became the mother of a beautiful newborn. I sat upstairs alone in a hospital room the night he was born — a 9-pound boy in a neonatal cot downstairs alone, on long-term oxygen. While I lay in the birthing suite minutes after his arrival, the doctor informed me my child had Down syndrome.

I relived the moment over and over that first night. The hospital smell was etched in my brain, and I had flashbacks of the moment — time stopped and the world spun sideways, never to return to its previous axis.

A parent receiving a diagnosis for their child will remember that exact moment forever, the moment their role as a parent took a detour. I replayed in my head every word spoken at my 20-week ultrasound. I repeatedly reviewed the last nine months in my head to figure out all the signs I’d missed while my life imploded.

That night I was caught in an endless loop of grieving, dreading further health tests and dealing with the aftermath of his diagnosis — finding out my child wasn’t the one I expected after a long, hard pregnancy.

My life changed in that hospital room. My sense of self-identity was crushed. I was no longer Kat Abianac — blonde, high-heel wearing, happy-go-lucky, loves life and always puts a positive spin on things. I was now a “Hospital Mum.”

Neonatal wards weren’t built for parents. They were custom made for their precious charges, while they sustained and nurtured life. In that hospital, I was now simply “Mum.” My new title had been handed me by the very same doctor who informed me my son had Down syndrome.

“Mum” was used by medical professionals and nurses for the rest of our two-month hospital stay. I didn’t hear my name out loud in that room unless I was brave and corrected nurses with my real name, the same nurses I already knew on sight, who in the vast majority greeted me with zero recognition on their smiling faces. “Good morning, Mum, how’s our little man?” The word was dehumanized for me by that experience. I was grateful for the few close friends who came to see me regularly during those long weeks. In those moments, I felt like my old self again.

My son is now 2 and thriving. Life is different now. I don’t think about those days often unless I actively choose to or am triggered by a smell or sound familiar to me from the wards.

I picked a close friend up from hospital after a procedure, having dropped her off earlier in the day. She got in the car and said, ”I’m so sorry I didn’t know what it was like for you. I just sat in that hospital alone and imagined you having a baby in hospital by yourself for so long. I felt so lonely in there. The questions they ask — so irrelevant and they asked the same things over and over. It’s none of their business, is it? Did they ask you things like that every day on rounds? I know I visited and I was there seeing you, but I just didn’t get it back then. I’m sorry.”

“Oh darling, that’s OK!” I answered brightly.

She put her hand over mine on the gear stick as we sat at a red light.

“No. I’m so sorry I didn’t understand. I didn’t, really. Now I do.”

I didn’t say anything in response. We had been friends forever, and it was a moment we both understood all too well.

I drove home to my son and daughter. Their au pair smiled and handed him over. He wrapped his sweet little arms around my neck.

“Mum,” he said. “Mumumumumum.” I cuddled him and I couldn’t recall those moments from the hospital anymore — the smell from back then and even that flash feeling after hearing his diagnosis when my world spun and I couldn’t make it stop.

I’m just a little boy’s mum. And I love it when he reminds me.

Katrina Abianac the mighty.1-001

Follow this journey on Parker Myles

If the average person was given a list of the top 10 movies of all time, I would guess that he or she would be able to name at least one actor who starred in each. However, if I asked that same person to name the director of each of the movies, that person might have a more difficult time.

I would guess that’s because actors tend to get most of the attention, as opposed to directors. Both play a vital role in the making of a movie.

My daughter, Tayler, has had wonderful teachers over the years, but I often wonder about the teacher assistants (TAs), the people who have given daily direction to my daughter and have helped to shape her life.

My daughter is a bright and sassy 13-year-old who has Down syndrome. She has a lot of difficulty with language (very few words) as well as other skills and has required the assistance of a personal paraprofessional since she started public school. To all the teacher assistants who have worked with my daughter…

Thank you for doing a job that may never pay you your worth.

The snotty noses that you have wiped, the assistance with toileting (we still have digestive issues), helping to button shirts and tie shoes — all the things that most typical kids take for granted, you quietly do every day.

Thank you for never giving up.

Without your knowledge, there were many days that I cried because of the “experts.” For many parents of children with special needs, disappointing news can occur regularly. I had one occupational therapist decrease services because of my daughter’s “lack of progress.” Thank you for ignoring the “facts” and seeing the “possibilities.”

Thank you for saying that she is “smart.”

What you probably didn’t know is that at the age of 22, I gave birth to Tayler without any knowledge that she had Down Syndrome. Immediately after she was born she had to be resuscitated three times due to a heart condition. She was later driven to a hospital in another city. As I lay in the bed after my C-section, I received a call from a doctor. This doctor proceeded to  inform me that — and I quote — “[Tayler] has Down syndrome, which means that she won’t be smart, she may never work, and if she does work, the most she will be able to do is push a mop.” Those reckless, hopeless, painful words left me devastated and completely lost. Your positive words have given me strength so many times.

Thank you for challenging my daughter.

In a world that can often focus on limitations, you have pushed my daughter to do more so many times. My sweet daughter can sometimes be stubborn and can lack motivation. Thank you for pushing her to do more than what is required.

To not just to my daughter’s TAs, but to all TAs, thank you for being silent directors in our children’s lives. You’re not only directors, you also wear invisible capes every day, for you are truly heroes as well.

Keli Gooch the mighty.2-001

[UPDATE: After this was originally reported, doctors determined that Abigail’s tumor was benign. Abigail underwent a successful surgery and has since left the hospital.]

Professional photographer Mary Huszcza held back tears as she captured Erika and Stephen Jones looking at their daughter, Abigail.

The parents of two whispered, kissed and prayed to their baby, who was born just days before with an aggressive brain tumor doctors said would only grow back if operated on. Because chemo would likely kill Abigail, her mom and dad decided to take her home with pediatric hospice. They’d rather spend time enjoying her and her sister, 2-year-old Audrey.

If [Abigail] dies, I don’t want it to be in plastic box in a hospital NICU,” Erika Jones told ABC News. “It will be home with us, surrounded by love and in our arms.”

Erika and Stephen Jones with their daughter Abigail on a bed
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography

The Jones family, from Jacksonville, Florida, decided to let Huszcza, who’s also a pediatric occupational therapist, take the emotional photos below so they can forever look at and cherish them, even if Abigail is no longer in their arms. They told The Mighty that their daughter’s life, though most likely short, has purpose, and these photos reflect just that.

Down syndrome, brain tumor, doesn’t matter,” Jones told The Mighty. “Nothing about her is a mistake, nothing about her is an error. She is perfect in every way, and she fits right into our family. She was designed specifically for us.”

The images and the family’s story have already made headlines — appearing on ABC, BuzzFeed and more. Although their story may appear to be a tragic one, the Jones hope people who read about them won’t only feel their pain.

“We pray Abby’s story brings hope to those who are hopeless, peace to those facing terminal illness and encouragement to those facing life’s uncertainties,” Jones told The Mighty. “Many people think this is a hopelessly tragic situation, and sometimes it indeed feels that way, but the moments of joy far outnumber the moments of sorrow.”

That emotion is exactly what Huszcza, who offered to do the shoot for free, hopes the photos portray.

“I want [people] to see the beauty and hope that abides within grief and sadness,” Huszcza told The Mighty. “I don’t want people to see these images and say, ‘What a sad situation.’ I want them to see how beautiful Abigail is and that, despite the unimaginable pain her family is feeling, their faith in her purpose is strong.”

Jones believes God has a plan for her family and for Abigail. Her advice for parents going through an experience like hers would be this:

“Hang on and breathe. We have a tendency to anticipate the worst, but the reality is usually far different and far better than we envisioned. You will love your baby, even though they may be different. You will survive your child’s illness or the loss of your baby. Life is a beautiful dance of joy and grief.”

Erika and Stephen Jones with their daughter Abigail on a bed
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Erika and Stephen Jones' daughter Abigail on a bed
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Erika and Stephen Jones with their daughters
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Erika and Stephen Jones' daughters
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Stephen Jones holding daughter Abigail
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Baby Abigail on a light pink background
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Baby Abigail sleeping
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Stephen Jones holding baby daughter Abigail and kissing her forehead
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Erika and Stephen Jones' daughter Abigail sleeping
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Baby Abigail sleeping in someone's arms
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Stephen Jones kissing forehead of baby daughter Abigail
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Stephen Jones holding baby daughter Abigail
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Baby Abigail sleeping on link pink background
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Baby Abigail sleeping in a white container
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Baby Abigail sleeping on a rug
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Erika Jones next to baby daughter Abigail
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
Dad holding sleeping baby daughter Abigail
Mary Huszcza​ / 8.08 Photography
The Jones family sitting on a bed

[UPDATE 10/13/15: Abigail had a successful surgery and has since left the hospital.]

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Share a story about one moment or conversation related to a cancer diagnosis or experience that made an impact on you. Find out how to email us a story submission here.

For those of you who have never read the story, “Welcome to Holland,” it is a beautiful metaphor of the journey that parents go on when they find out that their child has special needs. (I encourage you to check it out here.) It talks about how even though you were planning a trip to Italy but ended up in Holland instead, Holland is beautiful in its own way and it ends up being OK even though it wasn’t what you were expecting.

We chose Holland. We adopted our son who has Down syndromeWe fully expected his therapy sessions, his slower milestone gains, his amazing feats of double-jointedness and his beautiful little almond-shaped eyes. But somehow Holland ended up simply being stop number one on our journey around the world. We never expected his cancer, his kidney failure, his seizure disorder, his catheters, his feeding tubes and all of the other issues that he has that have nothing to do with his Down syndrome.

We chose Holland. I was upset. Why couldn’t we just settle there? Instead of Holland, we spent hours, days, weeks at the hospital. I just wanted Holland back.

But then something else happened. We moved on. We began to climb. When my son said, “Mama,” for the first time after we were told he would never talk, we breathed in the clean air of the Swiss Alps. We made it to the top of the mountain and we were stronger for it. We saw beautiful scenery again and hope for our future travels.

We started in Holland, but then we headed in many directions, meeting other amazing travelers on the way. Parents who were also on this world tour and had been to more destinations than us gave us courage, advice and a helping hand. We saw the beauty in their travel-worn faces. We felt their strength as they pulled us through the deep valleys. Our difficult journey around the world began to actually feel like an adventure.

We found rest in our friends, family and church. They were our soft and warm beds after weeks of backpacking through the muck and sleeping on the ground. Our doctors, nurses and therapists were our tour guides, taking us through difficult journeys so that we could reach beautiful destinations. And slowly, Holland didn’t seem so important anymore.

We chose Holland, but we didn’t stay. I’m so glad we left. Being in one place forever gets boring after a while anyway, right? Becoming world travelers has made us stronger. We have pushed ourselves to the limit to find out we are brave, smart and capable parents who have a difficult journey ahead. But we aren’t traveling alone.

So we’ve thrown away our map. Goodbye, Holland! It no longer matters where we go. There is no final destination because this journey is one that takes a lifetime. It only matters that we are traveling together.

Baby with Down syndrome smiling.

Follow this journey on Bekah’s Adoption.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

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