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Model With Down Syndrome: Target, Nordstrom Speak Volumes by Saying Nothing

Ryan (on left) is featured in this week's Target ad. (Image: Target)

Retailing giants Target and Nordstrom have made a big statement, by saying nothing at all.  Both companies have hired young model, Ryan (pictured left) as a clothing model recently. Ryan, an adorable boy with blond hair and blue eyes, seems like an obvious choice for modeling, except for one thing: he has Down Syndrome.

But neither company made a big deal out of it.

Blogger Noah’s Dad, who also has a son with Down Syndrome, called attention exactly why Target’s and Nordstrom’s use of Ryan as a model is so awesomesauce:

“This wasn’t a Special Clothing For Special People catalog.  There wasn’t a call out somewhere on the page proudly proclaiming that ‘Target’s proud to feature a model with Down syndrome in this week’s ad!’”

Bonus: neither company ran their ads featuring Ryan in October, National Down Syndrome Awareness month. Target’s ad runs this week, and Nordstrom’s ad ran in July.

In a comment to a post that Noah’s Dad wrote about Ryan in the Nordstrom ad, Ryan’s mom wrote that “the whole process of modeling is an extreme confidence booster for him. We are honored that Ryan is making the Down syndrome community proud. He is a beautiful boy inside and out. He makes us better parents, and a better family.”

In the U.K., Taya Kennedy, a toddler with Down Syndrome, has been signed modeling agency Urban Angels.

Television show Glee may be one reason that people with Down Syndrome are becoming more visible to the public eye. Actress Lauren Potter has a recurring role on the show as Becky Jackson, a member of the McKinley High cheer squad.  Lauren and her character both have Down Syndrome.  The show The Secret Life of an American Teenager also features actor Luke Zimmerman, who also has Down Syndrome, in the role of Tom Bowman.

Ryan (on left) in a Nordstrom catalog ad from July, 2011. (Image: Nordstrom)

Before the characters of Becky Jackson and Tom Bowman, television hadn’t seen a recurring role for an actor with Down Syndrome since Chris Burke played Corky on Life Goes On back in the early 1990s. A decade earlier, the character of Benny Stulwicz, a developmentally disabled mail room clerk, appeared on the show L.A. Law.  That role, however, went to Larry Drake, a talented actor without disabilities.

If more models and actors with Down Syndrome are getting work with mainstream retailers and television shows these days, could high-end luxury brands follow? Do you think we’ll see models with Down Syndrome featured in ads for Gucci or Dolce & Gabbana?

If you don’t think they’d hire models with Down Syndrome for their adult clothes, would they use children with Down Syndrome to model their luxury children’s lines?

 

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