Healthy Holistic Living

How Down Syndrome Model Madeline Stuart Made It to the Catwalk


On November 13, 1996, a tiny Australian baby named Madeline Stuart was born. Doctors told her mother Rosanne that Madeline had Down syndrome which came as quite a shock. Surprisingly, Rosanne had never known anyone with a disability, so not only was she a first-time mother but one with a whole new set of challenges.

Doctors told the mother that Madeline would only ever have the intellect of a 10-year-old and probably not amount to much. All of this was a lot to process, so Rosanne took a day to recoup and figure out how she was going to choose to move forward.

“I have never been one to think the worst,” she said in a CNN article. “I just always believe everything will work out in the end if you have faith in yourself and the people you love. So, I would make sure Maddy had a wonderful life and that she always felt loved and protected. Our journey, of course, was full of ups and downs.”[1]

Madeline Stuart’s Long and Hard-Fought Journey


Since the beginning, the Stuart family has been met with discrimination. At the park, parents would take their kids away from Madeline. Kids themselves would even walk away from Madeline.

“I wanted the world to change, and I wanted people to start seeing disabilities in a different light. Just because Maddy won’t end up being a scholar doesn’t mean she can’t offer amazing attributes to our society such as showing people love, accepting people for who they are and being kind. These are just as important as that ‘A’ on a report card, if not more important.”[1]


Over the years, Madeline and her mom have had some pretty awful experiences with pediatricians and therapists. As a result, they’ve had to move around a lot but this has connected the Stuart family with other likeminded doctors who see Madeline’s potential and abilities.

However, the first hurdle that really set the tone for how Madeline’s life would go was open-heart surgery at 2-months-old. Doctors had given her a 13 percent chance to live, but she defied the odds and is still here today making a difference.

The Moment Madeline Stuart Found Her Passion

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Madeline’s mother has always been diligent in giving her daughter opportunities to grow as an individual. So, when a chance to attend a fashion parade came up in 2014, the mother-daughter duo went! It was at the fashion show that three words changed her life.

Mum. Me. Model.”

At that moment, she had a feeling that Madeline would thrive in the spotlight, walking down the catwalk. Rosanne knew her daughter could be successful at whatever she put her heart and mind to, it was just a matter of whether Madeline was up for the lifestyle.

“I had to explain that she couldn’t just climb up on the stage, which didn’t go down well as you can well imagine. I told her if she wanted to be a model, she would have to continue eating healthy, which she had started earlier that year to keep up with her dance troupe.”[1]

Nine months later, Rosanne was taking her daughter to her first professional photo shoot. Turns out, she absolutely loved it! At first, Rosanne wondered if her daughter’s stunning photos were too controversial, so she consulted a handful of parents with Down syndrome children – the feedback was incredibly supportive and encouraging. Some people even said the photos deserve to reach the farthest parts of the world and that’s exactly what happened.


Within a week of making a modeling Facebook page for her daughter, Madeline Stuart’s photoshoot had gone viral! Now, at the age of twenty-one, Madeline has walked the runways in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and Denver as the first professional model with Down syndrome.

How Madeline Stuart Stays So Healthy and Catwalk-Ready

In a recent story with Shape, the magazine highlighted that she lost 40 pounds by making simple lifestyle change that anyone can! On top of dancing and playing cricket and basketball, Madeline spends over an hour at the gym, six days a week.[2]

“It’s the number-one thing she looks forward to every day. The moment she walks into the gym, she gets twenty hugs and twenty high-fives.”[2]

Madeline’s healthy lifestyle did not come naturally though. In 2014, she was carrying an extra 40 pounds of weight. While the number doesn’t seem particularly large, a combination of inactivity, regular fast food, and pre-existing heart trouble posed a serious health risk.

Since she was a baby, Madeline has lived with a heart that has three holes in it as well as a leaky valve which contributed to her extreme shortness of breath. But, according Madeline and her mother, her weight loss and overall health and wellness were made possible by doing 4 things:[2]

  1. Giving up her biggest guilty pleasure – McDonald’s. Madeline even asked her mom to throw all the junk food out of the house.
  2. Joining a dance studio was her first reintroduction to getting active again, something she loved since she was a little girl.
  3. Making exercise a regular part of her routine, especially once she started modeling. Now she does cardio, bodyweight training, weightlifting, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and boxing.
  4. Tracking her progress through photos on Instagram. Madeline believes there is “never enough hours in the day to keep [her] body healthy.”

Today, Madeline feels as health and fit as ever, flexing her muscles and her smile.


Madeline Stuart is showing no signs of stopping either!

“Of course, I believe this is just the beginning and to anyone that knows us, they know that this is not just about modeling,” says Rosanne. “This is about changing the world, creating inclusion, stopping discrimination and breaking down the walls of confinement. Modeling is just the vehicle that is letting us do it. We want everyone to love and be loved. After all, that’s what truly matters.”

What an inspiration! In the words of one of Madeline Stuart’s fans, “You are an inspiration for all girls in the world. Congratulations for being so amazing and wonderful.”[3]

[1] Stuart, R. (2015, December 29). How a model with Down syndrome made it to the catwalk. Retrieved February 09, 2018, from

[2] The World’s First Professional Model with Down Syndrome Will Inspire You to Be the Best Version of Yourself. (2018, February 05). Retrieved February 09, 2018, from

[3] Merhi, R. (2016, March 11). Model with Down syndrome stars in wedding photo shoot. Retrieved February 09, 2018, from

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