Like many 18-year-olds, Madeline Stuart, or Maddy, wants to become a model. Unlike most 18-year-olds, however, Maddy has Down Syndrome.

While having a genetic condition may seem like an obvious impediment to some, it’s not slowing Maddy down in any way.

It all started with a lifestyle change.

Weight issues typically go hand in hand with Down Syndrome. As a very active girl who wanted to be able to perform feats like handstands and cartwheels, this became a real source of frustration for Maddy. With the help and support of her mother Rosanne, Maddy changed her diet and started exercising.

“In the beginning Maddy struggled as she is very habitual, and was used to eating a lot so she had to break that cycle. I gave her a lot of support and in about two months she created new habits,” Rosanne said.

Soon enough, Maddy was swimming five times a week, hip-hop dancing, cheerleading, and training to play cricket with the Special Olympics.

“Her doctors told me she would never achieve anything. When she was first at school, on the sports day some of the parents didn’t want her to compete as they wanted their child’s team to win,” her mother said.

“People with Down syndrome can do anything, they just do it at their own pace. Give them a chance and you will be rewarded beyond your greatest expectations.”

This is something that Maddy has proven to be true many times over and is about to prove yet again, now that she has decided to become a model after having dropped a whopping 20 kilos.

“She loves the attention when she is up on the stage, doing a play or competing in gymnastics or cheerleading, and I have always taken millions of photos of her so she loves the camera,” Rosanne said.

“Maddy is so confident, she has no hang ups, she is more than happy to parade around the house showing me how gorgeous she is with her hand up behind her head swaying her hips as if to say ‘look at me’.”

By pursuing a modelling career, both Maddy and Rosanne hope to “help change society’s view of people with Down syndrome” as “exposure will help to create acceptance in life.”

“I think it is time people realized that people with Down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated,” Rosanne said.

“If the average person could see the beauty Maddy has inside, how loving and caring she is and if that is what people measured beauty on, then most of the models in the world would have Down syndrome.”

Although Maddy is not the first person with Down Syndrome to break into the fashion industry, we certainly hope she won’t be the last.