International supermodel with Down syndrome visits Jacksonville school

An international supermodel is spreading a message of inclusion in the fashion industry.

Madeline Stuart, 20, is from Australia. She has become a world-famous model, fashion designer and internet celebrity with a huge Instagram following.

She has walked at New York Fashion Week and appeared in leading fashion publications like Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

Madeline Stuart has Down syndrome and is breaking many boundaries for people with intellectual and developmental differences.

Students cheered her on Thursday as she walked a red carpet at North Florida School of Special Education in Jacksonville.

The school focuses on improving the lives of students with intellectual and developmental differences through the achievement of academic, vocational and social skills.

Her mom and manger, Rosanne Stuart, told us her daughter wanted to change the conversation by advocating for inclusion.

“She has broken down so many doors, and I hope eventually we have a society where it isn’t disability, it’s a different ability," Rosanne Stuart said. "I hope everyone is on the same platform, and people realize that just because you has a different ability doesn’t mean they’re next capable.  It just means they do things on their own timeframe."

In the ceremony, students wrote out questions and Debra Raines, assistant head of the school, read them aloud. Madeline Stuart’s mom helped her explain her journey to becoming famous.

With each question, Madeline Stuart and fellow students introduced themselves. She signed autographs and hit the dance floor with students and teachers after the conversation.

“I think Madeline and our students are so loving their approach to one another," Raines said. "She has been so welcoming and just open arms, hugging for our students, so the acceptance on both sides – it’s not like I don’t know you and I’m going to be judged. It’s just total open acceptance."

Madeline Stuart's visit is what the new public awareness campaign Connectable is all about. The movement is designed to enhance connections within Northeast Florida and people who have IDDs.

“My daughter with Down syndrome is cool and they want to be like her,” said Rosanne Stuart.

Thursday's event is a kick off to Madeline Stuart walking the runway with our own Action News Jax anchor Tenikka Hughes.

The fashion show, “Fashionable,” will be on Friday at 11 a.m. at the Dillard’s in the St. Johns Town Center.

The money raised from this event will help local nonprofits severing people with intellectual and developmental differences, including the North Florida School of Special Education, the Arc Jacksonville, the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville and Special Olympics Florida.

Tickets are $25 and $50 for VIP.

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