There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about ‘redefining beauty’, and although it’s a positive thing that the definition of what’s attractive is expanding, standards are still pretty confined. That’s why it’s so important that amazing women like those listed below are given air time, showing the world that glamour comes in all shapes and sizes…
18-year-old Madeline Stuart won’t let her Down’s Syndrome get in the way of her modelling dreams. After losing 40 pounds through diet and exercise, the Australian teen decided to take the fashion world by storm and challenge the perception of beauty in the media.
Maddy, as she is better known, has won hearts around the world and has 360,000 Facebook fans. Since sharing her story she has been flooded with job offers and recently landed a coveted campaign with fashion fitness brand Manifesta.
Madeline’s mother Rosanne is very supportive of her daughter’s chosen career path and helps out by managing her busy schedule. She said: “When I gave birth to Madeleine and we were in the hospital, they brought me all this literature about children with Down’s syndrome and nothing was positive.” She is thrilled that Maddy is defying the expectations of others: “People with Down’s syndrome can do anything, they just do it at their own pace. Give them a chance.”
Many with disabilities and their loved ones have contacted Maddy with messages of support, telling her how she has inspired them to fight their own battles. A mum of a little girl with Downs Syndrome recently posted on Maddy’s Facebook page: “I just had a baby girl six weeks ago who tested positive for Downs. She’s the absolute joy of our lives and we can’t wait to see her grow up and conquer the world! I tell my little girl every day that there’s nothing she can’t do. Madeline, you’ve brought so much hope and encouragement.”
30-year-old Tess Holliday is fighting the notion that you have to be skinny to walk on a runway. At a size 26, she is the world’s largest professional model and is considered radical in an industry that constantly judges women on body mass.
A tireless activist against the policing of women’s bodies, Tess started the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards in 2013 in reaction to online bullies who criticised her appearance. She since says she has been overwhelmed by the amount of support she has received from from others going through self esteem issues, and her 800,000 Instagram followers certainly love her just the way she is.
Although she has no problem with her size, she is not a fan of how it consistently follows her as a tagline. It draws attention to her differences, whereas she wants images of larger ladies to become more common place in the media.
19-year-old model Winnie Harlow, AKA Chantelle Brown-Young, suffers from the condition vitiligo which causes loss of colour from the skin. After being bullied for her appearance for most of her life, she uploaded a YouTube video discussing the disease and was subsequently discovered by America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks!
She later went on to take part in Season 15, and although she didn’t win (coming sixth overall) she has since landed modelling campaigns with casual clothing brand Desigual and Diesel.
Her impressive CV also includes closing Ashish’s Spring/Summer 2015 runway show, posing for a five-page spread in Glamour magazine and modelling for fashion film website Show Studio.
Fashion editor and blogger Jillian Mercado suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, but she didn’t let that stop her from starring in Diesel’s ‘We Are Connected’ campaign last year alongside artist James Astronaut.
Of her participation in the campaign, Mercado said she hopes the ad “gives hope to people who are maybe saying, “My life is over” because they are disabled. You can totally do it, nothing should be stopping you.'”
The 26-year-old New York native also featured in Nordstorm’s July 2014 catalogue, which has included disabled models since 1997.
When Andrej Pejic first entered the modelling world in 2009, the now 23-year-old Australian was billed as an androgynous male model who ‘lived between genders’. His unique appearance landed him on the cover of multiple magazines including i-D and Vogue, and he was known for his ability to effectively model both masculine and feminine clothing.
Fast forward six years, and Andrej is now Andreja, a transgender woman. After undergoing gender reassignment surgery in early 2014, later that year she discussed her new identity in an interview with People magazine. This year she took to the runway for the first time as a woman, walking for Giles Deacon at New York Fashion Week.
This month she made history by becoming the first openly transgender model to front a high-profile cosmetics contract. Working alongside actress Jamie Chung, Andreja says her new role is “pushing boundaries in a positive way”.
Rain Dove treats her career as a form of activism. Like Andreja Pejic she is known for her talent in modelling both women and menswear, and says rather than dividing fashion along gender lines clothing should be for everyone: “Women shouldn’t have to step into men’s roles to be empowered. They should be able to step into themselves”.
The oldest working supermodel, Carmen Dell’Orefice is 83-years-young.
Beginning her career in 1946 at the the age of 15, Carmen has modelled for most of her life, minus a 20 year gap after her second marriage in 1958. She was a favourite model of legendary fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld, a muse of Salvador Dali and has appeared on the cover of Vogue multiple times. Here she is in 1954 at the age of 23.
Earlier this year she came to the public’s attention yet again when she appeared on the cover of New You, looking as stunning as ever.
In an interview with the publication she said that the modelling industry is especially difficult these days for up and comers: “Short of having to go to bed with everyone, it is tough work. The smartest, with a good education and some good moral support from family and mentors, will not fall into booby-traps. They will save their money and use it and the experience as stepping stones to a more permanent career. I’m just an outsider observing but this is my impression.”