The current New York Fashion Week is being proclaimed as the year of inclusion and diversity, with Australian model Madeline Stuart and American beauty Rebekah Marine taking to the catwalks.
Both models are the same as every other model seen on the runway at NYFW; both are stunning and exude an air of elegance, the only difference is that Stuart has Down Syndrome and Marine, known as the “bionic model”, was born without a right arm.
Marine, a car saleswoman and motivational speaker from New Jersey, takes her modelling career with a pinch of humour, stating that her bionic arm gives her an edge over other models.
"A lot of kids think I'm like a superhero now," said Marine to ABC News.
Madeline Stuart made waves nationally and internationally after her mother, Rosanne Stuart, posted images of her daughters’ first photoshoot on a closed website for families of people with Down syndrome earlier this year. The images gained global attention, receiving over 50, 000 likes overnight.
"She's meant to get on the catwalk (at NYFW) and look a certain way. But I bet she's going to get out there and throw her hands up and go 'yeeaah!' and bask in the attention," said Stuart to ABC News.
It’s not the first time that the NYFW catwalks have seen models grace the runway with disabilities, with American actress Jamie Brewer being the first woman with Down Syndrome to walk the catwalk earlier this year for Carrie Hammer’s Role Models not Runway Models campaign.
"I know Jamie Brewer did it in February, but she is a movie star, she's not a model. With Madeline, this is her career, so I think it's going to be a great platform for her," said Stuart to Huffington Post.
The inclusion of Stuart and Marine in the NYFW catwalks proves there has finally been progress within the fashion industry of acknowledging the diversity of beauty. This is something that both Stuart and Marnie believe, stating that the fashion industry has come a long way in accepting diversity.
"I think a lot of brands are very hesitant to include models that aren't necessarily five-nine, skinny, blue-eyed, blonde. So it's a challenge but we're definitely making progress and it's so awesome to be a part of that," said Marine to ABC News.
For Madeline’s mother, she is just happy that her daughter is doing something that she loves whilst challenging the fashion industries beauty standards through walking for sportswear brand Manifesta eco handbag label everMaya.
"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," said Stuart to ABC News.
Madeline Stuart, often takes to her social media pages to communicate with her over 460, 000 Facebook and 75, 000 Instagram followers.
"Modelling will help change (society's) view of people with Down Syndrome, exposure will help to create acceptance," Stuart wrote on her Facebook page.
Words Jessica Lunan