Madeline Stuart is the Model Redefining Beauty

The 22-year-old model is known for her strawberry blonde hair, diva attitude, and testing the limits of her disability.

Madeline Stuart first expressed an interest in fashion at the age of 17, telling her mother “Mum, me model” at a fashion show. Now at 22, Madeline is a seasoned professional, with over 100 catwalks under her belt and far more projects to come. She also has Down syndrome, which may have been what caught the attention of the public (she’s become a symbol of disability awareness/diversity within the industry), but she’s setting the record straight: she works as hard as anyone else and it’s her talent as a model that matters.

Shortly after deciding to pursue this path, Madeline lost 40 pounds, shifting to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Her mother, Rosanne Stuart, supported her daughter’s aspirations though at first she supposed it was a passing phase. “I’d dabbled in modelling when I was 18, and hated it, so part of me thought she would lose interest very quickly,” Rosanne told The Washington Post. After seeing Madeline’s commitment, in 2015, Roseanne hired a professional photographer to shoot Madeline, later posting the photos to Facebook. The pictures garnered 7 million views, and Madeline was inundated with offers. She walked for Hendrick Vermeulen at NYFW, launching her career as a professional model.

Madeline’s success is not surprising. She’s representative of disability advocacy, which is instantly attractive, and people with disabilities are a sadly overlooked market (until now). Most of Madeline’s experiences were marked by love and support, but there’s been a few occasions where she was expected to work for free, which her mother described as “disheartening.” Despite these setbacks, she’s certain that with time everyone will see her as the hardworking diva she really is. “Through exposure and people supporting us, things will slowly keep changing,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post. “People are realizing this is not a gimmick.”

Although Madeline was invited to shows at NYFW (from designers at House of Byfield and Burning Guitars respectively), she was unable to attend due to health issues (she’d had open heart surgery in December, and has faced heart problems for most of her life). However, she’ll be back on the runway in March in Jakarta for International Down Syndrome Day. Madeline has also launched a clothing line, 21 Reasons Why, a reference to the extra chromosome that caused her disability. There’s no end in sight for the zestful powerhouse.

Discover More