As the first model with Down Syndrome to front a beauty campaign, Katie Mead has difficulty accepting the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. The 33-year-old wants to encourage others with disabilities to embark on the same journey she did and pursue their dreams, regardless of what others think. “It’s time to see more people with disabilities,” she said when she spoke of what she wants to see in front of the camera.
She begs the fashion industry to feature more people with disabilities. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Mead saw her career blast off last year after being the first model with Down Syndrome to front a beauty campaign. “I haven’t seen anybody with Down Syndrome be a model and now it’s time to see more people with disabilities can have the chance to be beautiful and pretty.”
Mead dazzled the camera after modeling as the face of Beauty & Pinups ‘fearless’ hair mask range campaign. “People who have disabilities can have abilities and they are very capable of doing so much in life,” she said, adding, “I just want to open the door to show you can be a model whether you have a disability or not.” At a young age, the model fell in love with fashion, playing dress up with her sisters. However, she never believed she could become a model. In school, she was bullied by peers, who would “put gum in her hair” or “take books out of her bag.” When speaking of the obstacles his daughter faced at a young age, her father Tom said, “When she was younger, the “r” word would come up, we learned to deal with it and tried to explain to Katie that everyone is different and not to let that define her.”
Down Syndrome, defined as a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, typically involves an extra copy of chromosome 21. However, Ms. Mead has not let her obstacles hold her back from being who she wants to be and achieving her goals. “Having Down Syndrome, people can face challenges and I remember just looking past that and I overcame my obstacles.” With her family firmly supporting her throughout her journey, Mead was given the opportunity to follow her dreams and eventually made history when she was named the face of the American beauty brand, which Katie said, “I was given the chance to shine and show that beauty belongs to everyone.” Her mother Becky said, “All her life we have tried to feed her the same opportunities that we did the other girls.” Now, it has not only paid off, but she her story is an inspiration for those around the world. In addition to her fame as a model and administrating job, Katie regularly speaks on behalf of the charity Best Buddies, whose motto is to encourage and empower people with learning difficulties to find jobs and build friendships.
Alan Randall, who has worked alongside Ms. Mead a number of times, said he was disappointed that there were not more models with Down Syndrome in the fashion industry. “What I like about Katie as a model is that just how easy she is to work with and I think she is a pretty good example of inner beauty as well as outer beauty,” Randall said. There is no doubt that Katie Mead is an inspiration for those everywhere, regardless of who they are. Her story is a perfect example that one should never give up on their dreams, no matter the challenges you must overcome. We hope to see more diversity in the fashion industry in the near future.