Madeline Stuart, an 18-year-old Australian with Down syndrome, is a surprising choice among the usual models seen strutting down the runways of New York Fashion Week.
But her NYFW debut at Sunday’s FTL MODA show at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal was no surprise to the teen’s mother.
"I don't think anything really surprises me anymore,” she said in a recent interview with Cosmopolitan magazine. “She's been asked to do a lot of stuff and I was hoping to she'd get asked to do NYFW but I assumed it would happen. I hope that doesn't sound too pretentious."
That confidence began with Stuart’s raise to fame through social media. Photos of her posted to Facebook went viral, and she continues to be a inspiration on her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Stuart’s moment on the NYFW catwalk also follows other fashion successes. She has landed campaigns with cosmetic company Glossigirl,activewear line Manifesta and accessories maker EverMaya, which named a bag named after her called ‘The Madeline.” Five percent of the bag’s sales go to the National Down Syndrome Society.
The FTL MODA show has particular significance not only for its inclusion in the high profile fashion event, but also its inclusion of models with disabilities. Partnering with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Global Disability Inclusion, it was the second time FTL MODA featured models with disabilities on its runway.
“At the core of the fashion industry is a forward-thinking and ever-changing notion of beauty: a concept that should not only apply to the clothes, but to those who wear them,” FTL MODA said in a statement.
Stuart was the second person with Down syndrome to walk in New York Fashion Week. In February, actress, Jamie Brewer, of “American Horror Story” modeled for Carrie Hammer.
"I am so excited that society is taking so much interest in the disability sector and our belief in inclusion is getting so much media coverage," Stuart told TODAY.com.
"I think that the message of inclusion is something a lot of people believe in and want to see succeed," she added. "I believe people can see love through our photos."