Model with Downs Syndrome at NY Fashion Week Advertisement

Model with Downs Syndrome at NY Fashion Week

Why it’s important to see different kinds of bodies celebrated in this way

By Deepa Menon  February 13th, 2015

My sister Vidya suffers from Lennox Gastaut syndrome. She’s developmentally challenged, has an IQ of 16 and requires high doses of anti-epileptics to keep her fits under control. She’s also a total cutie. I mean that in the most superficial sense of the word. She has big doe eyes, long lashes, thick hair, and long artistic fingers with tapered ends. When she smiles, her face splits open with friendliness. But you have to be able to see past all the paraphernalia—the wheelchair, the neck brace, the feeding tube—to see the sweetness. You have to be able to see past your pity.

American actor Jamie Brewer—you know her from American Horror Story—is the first person with Downs Syndrome to walk the ramp at New York Fashion Week and this is significant because when you see her on the ramp, you’re forced to really see her—not her condition, just her. Besides, how can you feel sorry for someone whose runway game is so on-point:


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Brewer walked for designer Carrie Hammer, whose campaign to put real achievers on the ramp and in her clothes, titled Role Models Not Runway Models, has been making news since she debuted at the New York Fashion Week three years ago. Last year, Danielle Sheypuk became the first model to take the runway on her wheelchair. Hammer also had Karen Crespo, a quadruple amputee, walk for her in 2014. Joining Jamie Brewer on the catwalk this week were activists, journalists, policy influencers and other professionals at the top of their fields. It drives home the point that Carrie Hammer’s oeuvre is stylish workwear. But the clothes are facing some serious competition from the women wearing them. As Hammer says, “My models definitely way outshine my clothes — I don’t mind!” In fact, that is the whole point. For the details to stand back while the beauty beams.