Monday, November 16, 2015

Oregon Girl With Down Syndrome Becomes Model

At 2 years old, Ellie Stafford of Aurora, Oregon is already on the path to a possible career.  The toddler is a child model, posing for her first time last August in a shoot for Portland-based children's clothing brand Hooray Haroo.

Ellie has Down syndrome, and while her mother Tiffany Stafford had heard of an organization called Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit which advocates for the inclusion of people with different abilities in media and advertisements, Stafford had not yet thought of having Ellie try modeling.  It wasn't until Ellie's brothers, ages 6 and 8, excitedly pointed out a Target ad featuring another child with Down syndrome that Stafford considered putting Ellie in front of the camera.

Realizing it would mean a lot for her sons to see someone like their sister in the media, Stafford began to investigate.  She sought out local modeling agents and sent them photos of Ellie, and not long afterward, Ellie signed with an agency to do print publications.  Ellie has already been called a natural, raising her shoulder while tilting her head to the side and resting an index finger against her cheek in her "modeling pose."  If there's a camera pointed at her, she doesn't need any prompting to give it a smile.

The news of Ellie's budding career comes at the same time as word began to circulate of Kayla Kosmalski, a child model with Down syndrome who walked in a GapKids show earlier this year.  Katie Driscoll, the founder and executive director of Changing the Face of Beauty (which partnered with Gap), recently said that almost 50% of people either have different abilities or know or love someone who does.  With such large numbers, she states, it is in brands's best interests to represent these individuals.

Stafford herself recently collaborated with Changing the Face of Beauty, forming a campaign called "Who's Next?" which encourages individuals with different abilities to urge retailers to make more inclusive advertisements.  Stafford isn't new to the world of organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of people who have different abilities and their families; she was one of the founding members of the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network, a site that aims to help new and expectant parents of children with Down syndrome, and she is still part of the advisory board.

Stafford believes that Ellie can inspire children and parents affected by Down syndrome, and she hopes that in the future there will be more understanding of people of all abilities.  Stafford not want to push Ellie down a path she doesn't wish to follow, however, and it's all right with her if Ellie does not wish to be a model.  But right now, with Ellie smiling at the camera, she's excited to help fight the stigmas against different abilities.

You can learn more about Ellie Stafford on (and in the same story featured on USA Today), on Upworthy, and from an earlier story on OregonLive.  Check out Changing the Face of Beauty, the nonprofit dedicated to having people with different abilities be featured in media and advertisements, on their website here.

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