Downs models are changing the game

Addison Smith | Opinions Editor

Now, before I begin to discuss this week’s column topic, I just want you all to know that this is a subject near and dear to my heart. My sister has Down syndrome, and to see awareness and acceptance spike recently has made my heart soar.

For those of you who didn’t go on Facebook and see all of your friends sharing last week’s heart-warming news, Jamie Brewer became the first person with Downs to walk the runway during New York Fashion Week (NYFW) last Thursday.

Brewer, best known for her recurring roles in the American Horror Story series, strutted her stuff for designer Carrie Hammer. According to Today, Brewer was selected to walk the runway as a part of the “Role Models Not Runway Models” campaign started by Hammer.

The campaign has surged, and Brewer is not the only disabled model on the runway. Hammer’s shows have been filled with models in wheelchairs and others who are amputees, along with Brewer.

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

Started by Italian model company FTL MODA, “Role Models Not Runway Models” provided inspiration throughout NYFW. The individuals selected rolled or walked down the runway with such fierceness, even Tyra Banks would be proud.

Why has it taken this long for this to become a thing, though? This campaign has received attention and praise from around the world, so one would think such a campaign would have been started sooner rather than later.

The world has seemingly become a little more accepting as of late, even if all we see on social media is posts aiming to restore our faith in humanity. Target has also begun to hire models with disabilities, running an advertisement with a two-year-old with Down Syndrome around Christmas time.

According to the Huffington Post, Izzy Bradley was chosen to rock a purple and pink ensemble while playing with a toy. Target had been specifically looking for models with Downs. Now, Izzy smiles and points to herself in the advertisement every time she sees it. Her mother told CBS that Izzy will clap and say “Izzy!” whenever her advertisement pops up in front of her.

This outreach to the disabled puts smiles on not only their faces, but on everyone’s. Izzy’s advertisement was shared over a million and a half times on Facebook with encouraging words, while Brewer’s runway walk has been shared over 25,000 times through Us Weekly’s sharing point.

Needless to say, the importance of these people modeling is huge. It shows how our society has become more accepting and willing to reach out to those who are different than them.

Add in the plus-sized model in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and the definition of beauty is changing for the better.

No longer is being different than the expected a bad thing, it’s something to embrace. The “Role Models Not Runway Models” campaign teaches us that everyone can be embraced as beautiful in his or her own right.

These girls have reached out and touched hearts and have shown that disabled models are here to stay. Add in amputees and wheelchair models and the face of fashion is changing, and it is definitely for the better. The more we normalize this practice, the more welcoming our society can become.

Now, instead of it being a campaign or an attraction for attention, let’s have it become a societal norm. Let’s not have it become a huge deal on social media when we see a disabled model. Let’s shrug it off, because that’s normal. Let’s have it be about how strong of a model he or she is, instead of about he or she overcoming a disability. Let’s have it be something that doesn’t turn our heads. Instead, let’s aim to make this as regular and nonchalant as possible.