Sep 16, 2015 08:27 PM EDT
Walking the catwalk twice -- in couture and resort wear -- the 18-year-old Aussie model Madeline Stuart took over the runway for the FTL Moda New York Fashion Week on Sunday, Sept 13.
The professional model with a handbag already named after her flew 28 hours across the world to attend the show. Although Madeline is not the first woman to walk with Down syndrome in New York, her mother expressed her joy as her daughter's participation in the show, held at Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Station, marks the beginning of diversity in the fashion world.
The show was organized by FTL MODA together with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and Models of Diversity, who campaigns to recognize the beauty in people of all race, age, shape, size and abilities to change the face of fashion and modelling.
"I think it's amazing that she's been given this opportunity. 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," said Rosanne Stuart, Madeline's mother.
An uploaded photo of hers in Facebook in May that went viral puts her in the limelight, gaining her about 20,000 followers within a week and nearly half a million today.
Stuart is also hailed as the face of Glossigirl, a cosmetics company and she will fly to the West Coast to claim a prize as the model of the year. EverMaya named a bag after her with its proceeds donated to the National Down Syndrome Society.
Her mother recalled how her daughter was bullied before, being abused and living in isolation with a disability. "I think people are a lot more open now... Social media has brought everything to the forefront. Things aren't hidden anymore," Madeline's mother said.