While everyone was gushing over Madeline Stuart walking runways during Fashion Week this fall, they neglected to mention another model with down syndrome is taking the industry by storm — and it turns out she’s a beautiful brown girl like us.
Gigi Cunningham is set to walk the runway in the 2015 Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show in Denver later this month. The event, put on by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation (GDSF), is the largest fundraiser for Down syndrome in the nation, with more than 1,200 attendees annually, resulting in more than $9.5 million raised for Down syndrome research, medical care, advocacy and education, according to themighty.com.
This accomplishment will be the biggest milestone to date for the teen who’ll also serve as one of three representatives in the National Down Syndrome Society’s Buddy Walk in Urbana, Illinois on October 10. These achievements are a big deal for the girl who was once consumed by bullying and taunting from her peers. Watching DVDs from the Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center and reading their anti-bullying literature has helped the aspiring model cope and press on toward her goals, she and her mom told The Mighty.
“When people read my story I want them to know that I can do anything, [and] with social media the world will see my true potential and beauty,” Gigi said. “I want the modeling world to give me a chance also and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. I want the world to really change how they perceive people with disabilities and continue to embrace their beauty. Never set limits on your child… they just might exceed them. People with Down syndrome are beautiful, smart, creative, loving, confident and it should be displayed.”
“I love that I can inspire others to make a change and love the skin they are in.
That’s a lofty accomplishment for someone of such a young age. And though she’s experienced great level of success already, Gigi is aware that breaking down barriers in a racist industry is an uphill battle.
“Many doors will close and many will open. Always approach your obstacle with a ‘I can’ attitude and with a smile on your face because you are worth it. My belief is that you can do all things through Christ and with prayer nothing is impossible. Never give up and if no one else believes in you I do. We are winning. I am determined to help change the face of beauty.”
Let’s hope the industry is as ready for her as she is them.