Q&A: Madeline Stuart and Down's Syndrome

Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart is the first professional model with Down's Syndrome.

Madeline Stuart is the first professional model with Down's Syndrome.

The 18-year-old Australian wants to change the way people discriminate against disability through gaining attention through social media.

She wants people to know that Down's Syndrome is a blessing, something to be celebrated.

We spoke to Madeline and her mum, Roseanne Stuart, about her attitude towards her body.

Do you consider yourself a body positive sort of person?

Yes as I always treat my body with respect, work out five days a week, eat healthily and never drink or smoke.

Is there anything you do to keep yourself positive about your body?

I just believe in myself and always be kind to others. Giving is the most self-satisfying thing you can ever do.

How would you describe the last 18 months of your life?

Fast, very busy and exhilarating. I have had the best time and met the most amazing people.

Madeline Stuart
Madeline was inspired to become a model after visiting a fashion parade.

Was there a specific moment or event that made you decide to make changes to your lifestyle and attitude to your health?

Yes, in March 2014 I was dancing with my friends in a hip-hop class and I could not keep up.

I was so uncomfortable and could not catch my breath. I ran out to my mum and cried that I had let myself become so unhealthy.

At that point I changed my diet and started respecting my body and not just my taste buds.

Two years later I have lost 20kg and I feel amazing and have so much energy.

Did you imagine that you'd ever be on a New York catwalk or on the pages of Vogue?

That is not something I ever thought about. I only really discovered modelling in August 2014 when I went to the Royal Queensland Show in Brisbane and watched a fashion parade.

At that moment I decided it looked like an awesome thing to do. Before then my spare time was competing at Special Olympics, dancing and acting.

How important is it to you that you're challenging the traditional beauty ideals of the fashion industry?

I think it is important for us all to grow and to become more inclusive. The world is ever evolving and it is time that we realised that not everyone is tall, skinny and blonde.

A model is supposed to represent reality and in reality people come in all shapes, sizes, nationality and colour.

When you got your first paid job as a model, describe the feeling…

I was very excited. I also felt very proud.

Do you see yourself as a trailblazer?

Yes in a way, but I always have done my own thing. I learnt that from my mum.

You've also been nominated for awards in Australia, what would it mean to win them?

I think it would be lovely, but the fact that I am creating awareness for people with disabilities is what is really important.

Within time it will become very normal to see people with disabilities in the spotlight and only when that happens will people feel comfortable and become inclusive. The unknown is always scary.

Does it surprise you that people think it's a big deal to see you making waves in the fashion and beauty community?

Yes, it does. I don't really understand as I see and treat everyone equally so I feel it is more of a reflection of them than me.

Madeline Stuart
18-year-old Madeline wants to change the way people discriminate against disability through gaining attention through social media.

Was there ever a point that you didn't think you'd achieve your goals?

No as my only goal has always been to be happy and I am very happy with life. It is a journey and where that journey takes us is up to us.

What would your advice be to someone who'd like to follow a similar path?

Believe in yourself as only when you do will others believe also. Even if you don't obtain your first goal you still would have tried and other opportunities will arise from trying.

What's next, do you have anything else that you've identified as something you'd like to take on?

I would really like to venture into television but at the same time I want to continue to model and be a role model to help other people.

You can see more of Madeline's photo shoots here.