Australian model Madeline Stuart has always dreamed of walking the runway at New York Fashion Week, and on Monday, these dreams finally became a reality.
At just 18 years old, Madeline is an inspiration to all as she just became the second model with Down Syndrome to ever take part in this iconic fashion event. Her beauty, courage and confidence are the reasons she will go down in history, the reasons she is this week's Woman Crush Wednesday, and the reasons she is our women crush every day.
Last month, when Madeline found out that she would be making a difference in the fashion world, just as her idol Jamie Brewer had at last year's event, she couldn't contain her excitement. She fell in love with the idea of walking the runway at a fashion show last year, and she has been determined ever since.
Her mom and manager, Roseanne, decided to make her a Facebook page to hopefully bring notice and shift people's perspectives on beauty. The page immediately went viral, going from 20,000 followers to 250,000 in just a week. Modeling agencies from all over were calling and asking if she'd like to join them, but Madeline wasn't in it for the money, but instead to raise awareness.
"It's not even really about modeling," Roseanne told Paper Magazine. "It's about Madeline having a platform so we can spread the word on inclusion and we can stop discrimination. So we can explain to the universe that even if you have a disability, you're still capable of doing things and you're worthy."
On Monday, Madeline made her mark as she walked the runway for FTL Moda. She wore three different looks, ranging from casual to bridal, according to Yahoo. The most memorable moment of all, though, was her final look when she walked onto the runway holding hands with the designers, Hendrik Vermeulen and Jean-Daniel Meyer-Vermeulen, wearing a powerful black T-Shirt that read "I am NYFW."
"I think it's amazing that she's been given this opportunity," her mother said backstage. "It's a fantastic platform for us to get our beliefs across on inclusion and disability. She likes to be in the spotlight and she likes people to notice her and she thinks she's pretty cool."
FTL Moda partnered with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for this show called "Fashion Free from Confines," so Madeline was happy to be giving back and to be a part of such an incredible experience. "We share their steadfast commitment to raising awareness for the paralysis community and together, we will break down barriers to achieve total inclusion for models living with disabilities across the most prestigious runways of the world," FTL Moda producer Ilaria Niccolini said in a statement. "By challenging the stereotypes surrounding disability, we will truly create fashion free from confines."
Madeline shared a bunch of photos from the event to her Instagram, and her genuine happiness shines. From backstage getting her makeup and hair done, to walking the runway in a beautiful gown and intricate face paint, to hugging the designers themselves, the photos are extremely powerful.
"It was fun," Madeline told New York Daily News after the show. "I feel good." "She was great!" her mom added. "I am so proud."
As for her plans for the future, Madeline has a pretty packed schedule. She's trying to fit as many charity events in as she can because that is what's most important to her.
"There are just so many things happening, and so many opportunities," her mother continued to tell Paper Magazine. "And it's just such a beautiful thing. It really is."