She’s done it again.

Madeline Stuart, the world’s most famous model with Down syndrome, made her second appearance on a New York Fashion Week (NYFW) runway.

The 18-year-old Australian model walked the catwalk on Monday at the FTL Moda show at the Angel Orsensaz Foundation in Manhattan. She first rocked an etherial, winter-inspired look by Lulu te Gigi, complete with a furry white hat. Then she again reappeared in a beautiful formal purple and gold number by Josefa Da Silva.

Stuart walking the runway
Photos by Melissa McGlensey/The Mighty
Stuart walking the runway with model
Photos by Melissa McGlensey/The Mighty
Stuart walking the runway
Photos by Melissa McGlensey/The Mighty
Stuart walking the runway
Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty
Stuart walking the runway
Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty

Also in attendance was Rebekah Marine, known as the “bionic model” because she has a prosthetic limb. Marine walked in the Da Silva show accompanied by a little girl who was also missing a limb. Shaholly Ayers, who also has a prosthetic limb, walked the runway as well.

Rebekah Marine walking the runway
Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty
Rebekah Marine walking the runway
Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty

To Stuart’s mother, Rosanne Stuart, her daughter’s second appearance at NYFW is an important marker in her career.

“I think today is cementing her in the industry; she isn’t just a one hit wonder who walked in New York Fashion week once,” she told The Mighty. “She’s settled in the industry. She’s a model now.”

Stuart backstage in hair and make up
Stuart backstage in hair and make up. Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty
Stuart getting ready backstage.
Stuart getting ready backstage. Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty

Her second appearance at NYFW is only one of Stuart’s many recent accomplishments in the last year, including being the first professional model with Down syndrome to be the face of a cosmetic company, releasing her own handbag, starring in a music video and more.

Stuart with Italian model
Stuart with Italian model Fausto Di Pino. Photos by Melissa McGlensey / The Mighty

Stuart’s first appearance at NYFW last September was a huge success. The show took place in New York City’s Vanderbilt Hall and Stuart took two trips down the runway — one for resort wear, the other for couture.

See Stuart work the runway in the video below: 

Madeline Stuart at #nyfw16 @madelinesmodelling_

A video posted by The Mighty (@themightysite) on


Despite her global success, Stuart is still looking for representation or a sponsorship to cement herself within the fashion industry. Her mother hopes her frequent appearances at NYFW can help her daughter to secure management and thrive within the industry.

See more shots from the fashion show below:

Madeline walking the runway
Courtesy of Rosanne Stuart
Madeline walking the runway
Courtesy of Rosanne Stuart

Maddy walking the runway

Madeline Stuart on the runway
Courtesy of Rosanne Stuart

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


Dear Chris Burke,

I’ve written this letter dozens of times in my head, but now, seeing the words before me, they don’t seem right. No words seem to sum up how I feel about you. If only I could give you a hug.

Your show “Life Goes On” has been off the air for a couple of decades, yet your character, Corky, is still fresh in my mind. Funny, because I don’t remember many shows from my childhood, yet I remember yours. I like to think that God planned it that way.

Jennifer and her daughter, Willow.

Two and a half years ago, my youngest daughter, Willow, was born. It didn’t take long for doctors to notice Willow’s color was off. Turns out she had several heart defects. She was also diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Never have I experienced such joy and such pain. The beautiful girl before me seemed so fragile. I was devastated — but not for the reasons some might suspect.

In the days following Willow’s birth, doctors, nurses, friends and family kept asking me how I was coping and dealing with the news. My answer was always the same. I’d tell them the heart defects were what scared me, not Down syndrome. I meant it. While I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked by the diagnosis, I can honestly say I was at peace with it. It didn’t scare me. Why? Well, I think it has a lot to do with you.

Jennifer’s daughter, Willow.

Growing up, my encounters with people who had Down syndrome were few and far between. I can’t even recall meeting anyone with Down syndrome until I was a teenager. But my memory of your character Corky stands out. I remember you so fondly. You were lovable, funny and, most importantly, human. You laughed, you cried, you bickered with your family. You were “more alike, than different,” as the saying goes. My memory of you and your character is nothing but positive. And now, as a fairly new mother of a child with Down syndrome, my outlook for my daughter’s life is nothing but positive.

Since welcoming Willow, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn even more about you. My nap-time Google sessions have turned me from a fan into a super fan. Not only are you a great actor, you are the epitome of humility — especially when I think about your life after “Life Goes On.”

Your work as the Goodwill Ambassador for the National Down Syndrome Society is nothing short of inspiring to me. You used your fame to further your message. I even saw a news clip of you stuffing envelops for them. I try to imagine another actor doing the same. I love that you’re willing to do anything to spread awareness and acceptance of people with
Down syndrome.

While your time with the NDSS is over, I have no doubt that you’re still hard at work. I get the impression that that’s just who you are. I can understand it, too, watching all the time and effort my daughter puts into therapy and learning to walk. Hard work is a part of you. And I’m here to tell you that because of your hard work, my daughter’s life is a little easier. You’ve paved the way. Thank you. Seriously, thank you.

Forgive me if this letter seems jumbled, broken or doesn’t even make sense. I’m having a hard time typing through the tears. Have I mentioned you’re the only actor I’ve ever written a fan letter to? I’ve always thought the idea sounded silly. I imagine most actors don’t even read their mail. Why pour the time and energy into something that won’t even
be seen or read? But you? You’re worth it. I really want you to know that.

Every once in awhile, I catch myself humming the theme song to “Life Goes On.” How clever. How true. Life really does go on, whether we’re on board or not. Thank you for being you and inspiring me to embrace my daughter’s diagnosis and enjoy the ride before us.

Thank you again, and God bless.

P.S. Could you give your mom a hug for me?

Follow this journey on The Mighty Willow.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a powerful moment you or a loved one has had with a public figure. Or, write a letter to a public figure who you feel has helped you or a loved one through his or her work. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

To the grandparents who just received a Down syndrome diagnosis for their grandchild,

You’re not alone; other grandparents have been sad and confused by this news. Your grieving might be twofold; you’re heartbroken for both your grandchild and your child. This might not be something you wanted for either one of them… but you must keep in mind: this is a different Down syndrome and not the Down syndrome you might think you know.

This is not the Down syndrome from the days when a child was recommended to be institutionalized. This is not the Down syndrome where the life expectancy of a child was 25. This is a Down syndrome where therapies are available. People with Down syndrome now go college and hold jobs. People with Down syndrome can live independently and get married, and are expected to live well into their 60s.

If you’re reading this on the Internet, you have the capability to do your own research. There are many organizations such as the National Down Syndrome Congress and National Down Syndrome Society that can give you up-to-date information.

Support your own child with whatever path he or she takes on this journey. Have confidence your child will do his or her best. This grandchild will be one of your most amazing gifts in life.

little girl with bow in her hair

Follow this journey on Three With a Twist.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

NFL player Brandon McManus spent a day in November of 2014 playing catch with an 11-year-old boy with Down syndrome, and it changed his life. Inspired, the Super Bowl champ has now founded an organization to tackle bullying.

Boy with a Bronco's shirt on

Home video shows 11-year-old Ryder Braden playing ball with McManus, the kicker for the Denver Broncos. Ryder was being bullied by neighborhood kids when his mom reached out to the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association for help. The organizers had the idea to reach out to McManus, as Ryder is a huge Broncos fan, Fox 31 Denver reported.

McManus showed up at Ryder’s house, and, wearing his Broncos gear, played catch with Ryder in the front yard where the whole neighborhood, including the boys who’d been bullying Ryder, could see. Hillery Braden, Ryder’s mom, said he gained confidence from the encounter.

Their interaction also left a lasting impression on McManus, who later started the Anti-Bully Squad, an organization that takes a stand against bullying through education, awareness and prevention.

“I’ve played in big football games in my career, but just seeing his smile on his face and his mom’s face, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever [done] in my life,” McManus says in the video below.

McManus’s Anti-Bully Squad is still in its early stages, but McManus, and his childhood friend who he started the organization with, hope to see it grow.

Get more on the story from the video below:


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!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

I remember the day I met you. You were a baby, and my 5-year-old self was intrigued by how small the palms of your hands were and how your eyes wandered to each of us. I always wondered what was going on in your head. I know for sure your baby self wasn’t thinking about the tremendous impact you would have on your cousin Anna’s life. In fact, my 5-year-old self had no clue how much you would teach me. You would influence my views on life and teach me of a love so strong that I didn’t know existed.

It doesn’t take much at all for you to put a smile on my face. In fact, seeing you stand in the doorway as you arrive at family parties all dressed up to perfection is enough to make me feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. You always do the best out of everyone at making your rounds, saying “hello,” and of course giving hugs and kisses. I hope you know these small acts don’t go unnoticed. You make each and every one of us feel special and important. You have your inside jokes with all of us and your curiosity leads to some of the best relationships. It amazes me to see the special connection you have with each of us, and it makes me hope I can have just as large of an impact on everyone I meet.

I rarely see you without a smile on your face. What amazes me is how quickly you manage to get yourself together, put that smile back on your face and be a trooper. Whatever the scenario may be, anything from a meltdown to finding out your cousins off at college won’t be at the family party, you manage to accept the bad and move on. Now when I get upset for whatever reason, I remember what you would do. Accept the bad and move on.

I can recall a day when we were together with our families. I wasn’t feeling like myself, but I shrugged it off and tried to make the best out of the family time I had. It wasn’t unusual for me to feel this way considering I occasionally get into “funks” due to my depression. I went about that night trying to distract myself from how I was feeling. I laughed and smiled, but I wasn’t able to shake it off altogether. I felt alone, and nobody noticed anything was wrong. You and I shared a chair in the family room as the rest of our family sat around the dinner table exchanging stories.

Out of nowhere, you looked me in the eye and asked “What’s wrong?” It left me speechless. You knew something wasn’t right and you expressed your concern to me when I did everything possible to hide it. Right then and there, I realized nothing was wrong. I may be in a funk, but I was surrounded by the ones I love most. That night, you gave me an extra hard squeeze when we hugged goodbye. You taught me to love unconditionally and to always keep my eye open for when a loved one may need me most.

Thank you for teaching me lessons I can’t learn from a textbook. Whether I need a laugh, somebody to get my mind off of life’s stressors, a shoulder to cry on or whatever else, you are there. Your unconditional love and bubbly personality go a long way, and you have impacted my life more than I could have ever imagined.

woman and boy in front of tree
Anna and her cousin, Matthew.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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!

 Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

It was 8:30 on a Monday morning when my partner Keston and I got a call that would forever change our lives. The doctor got straight to the point. “The baby has Trisomy 21,” he said. He was talking about the baby I was carrying as a surrogate.

“Positive for Down syndrome?” I asked.


It was out now, but I wasn’t surprised. Just days earlier the doctor had told us he suspected something. And we had opted for genetic testing.

Then the doctor added, “And it’s a girl,” and shortly thereafter hung up.

I took this especially hard because we had gone through so much to make this baby, and she was my biological child. I felt guilty and responsible, even though logically I recognized I had, had no control. I gave a heartbroken sob, but I knew I didn’t have time. The intended parents were waiting, just as we had been a few minutes earlier. I picked up the phone to call them.

The four of us wondered what would this mean? We agreed that a meeting with the genetic counselor surely would be able to answer that question. So I quickly scheduled a meeting for the next day.

Anxious for answers, we intently listened to the genetic counselor. She began with explanations on chromosomes and followed up with a slew of medical complications the baby “would likely suffer from if she didn’t pass away on her own.” She had no answers about medical advancements, no real-life scenarios, no support networks or resources for us. The intended parents felt hopeless.

Keston and I understood, but we felt there were still too many questions that went unanswered. If we could not get the answers to our questions from the genetic counselor, we would branch out on our own and find some. We spent hours online researching. We contacted and visited our local Down syndrome organization.

Things weren’t as bad as we had been led to believe. We saw hope!

As we found the answers we needed, we urged the intended parents to search as well, but they chose to walk away.

But Keston and I believed in the baby girl who had already beaten some incredible odds. We decided if she was meant to pass away as the doctors predicted, she would on her own, but we wouldn’t take her chance at life away. Instead, we would become her protectors and advocates. We would be her Moms.

And she not only survived, but thrived!

We chose to be proactive. We researched and enrolled our daughter in early intervention therapies, which started at 2 months of age. And now three years later, against doctor expectations, we have an adorable and feisty toddler named Delaney Skye, who is developmentally ahead or on target.

Andrea Ott-Dahl

When I look back on our meeting with the genetic counselor, I wish she would have told us what I am about to tell you:

It’s going to be OK. There are things you can do to help your child thrive. You can do this. Sure, there will be moments when life is consumed with doctor and therapy appointments, and yes, your child may need to work hard for everyday tasks.

But with your commitment, your child will also grow and flourish and defy expectations. Your child will fill you with more pride and love than you ever imagined. Your life and the lives of those around you will be so much richer with a child like Delaney.

Because if I knew all the things that I know now, I would have never shed a single tear because Delaney is perfect just as she is!

Andrea Ott-Dahl is the co-author of the memoir, “Saving Delaney.” She and her partner, Keston Ott-Dahl live in the San Francisco area with their 3 kids and are well known activists and bloggers in the Down syndrome community.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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