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Changing the Face of Beauty's Headshot Clinics Help Kids With Disabilities Break Into Modeling

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When Kathyrn Driscoll’s daughter, Grace, was born with Down syndrome six years ago, Driscoll realized her daughter had more to offer the world than what Driscoll saw represented in the media.

“I did not want to ask people to accept her and her disability,” Driscoll told The Mighty. “I wanted instead to show the world what she was capable of.” With this goal in mind, Driscoll set out to change the advertising and modeling industry to represent the one in five Americans, like her daughter, who live with a disability. Since then, Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit organization founded by Driscoll, has partnered with a number of fashion retailers, including Nordstrom, to ensure people with disabilities are included in advertising campaigns.

Little boy with Down syndrome modeling

Companies are interested in casting models with disabilities, Driscoll said, but there is currently only one talent agency in America with a significant pool of disabled models.

To meet this demand, Changing the Face of Beauty is hosting headshot clinics throughout the country. These one- to two-day clinics provide children and teens with disabilities professional hair, makeup and photography services, culminating in photographs they can bring to talent firms when asking for representation.

Girl with Down syndrome modeling

“The goal of the clinics is to give aspiring models with disabilities quality headshots, as well as the courage to push for representation in local talent firms around the country that are currently telling them they are not interested in working with disabled models,” Driscoll said.

So far the organization has hosted six clinics in four states, photographing over 300 aspiring models. Photoshoots are scheduled for another 20 locations over the next year, with plans to photograph at least another 600 people with special needs.

Little boy with Down syndrome modeling

Each clinic is coordinated by a local volunteer, who arranges partnerships with local companies and talent firms. Many of the professional services are donated; however, depending on the level of support received a suggested donation may be asked of participants.

“Media and advertising give our world the opportunity to be exposed to people that some might not have regular exposure too,” Driscoll told The Mighty. “If we could capture a small percentage of the advertising voice we could really impact the perception of differences.”

Those interested in coordinating, participating or sponsoring a clinic can email Changing the Face of Beauty for more information.

Originally published: August 9, 2016
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