Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baby with Down syndrome is a model in the UK

from Life Site News:
When Gemma Andre submitted photos of her young daughter, Taya, to a UK modeling agency at the urging of a family member, she didn’t say anything about the fact that Taya was born with Down syndrome.
“No one asked the question, ‘Is your child disabled?’ So I didn’t mention it,” Gemma told the Daily Mail recently.
Even after the ad agency, Urban Angels, phoned Andre and told her that Taya had made the first cut, and they would like to meet her personally, Gemma stayed mum on her daughter’s condition.
“I didn’t want her to be chosen as the token disabled child. If she was going to be picked, then it had to be on her own merit,” she says.
It turns out that Gemma didn’t have to be worried: after going in for a photo shoot with Urban Angels, Taya was chosen as one of the few lucky child models for the agency.
“When the agency rang me and said, ‘We want her on our books. She’s absolutely beautiful’, I was delighted,” says Gemma.
“I asked them if they were aware she had Down’s Syndrome. They said: ‘It’s immaterial. We’ve accepted her.’” At that moment, says Gemma, she burst into tears. 
“I was overjoyed, not so much because Taya was going to be a model. More importantly, she had competed on equal terms with every other child and succeeded.”
According to Alysia Lewis, owner of Urban Angels, “Taya is an incredibly photogenic, warm and smiley child, and that shines through in her photographs.”
“That she has Down’s syndrome did not enter the equation. We chose her because of her vibrancy and sense of fun.”
“The standard is high [for selection by Urban Angels],” says Lewis, “the desire for places strong. Taya is one of 50 children we chose from 2,000 applicants.”
Taya’s story is a rare tale of non-prejudice at a time when in many Western countries more than 90% of children born with Down syndrome in utero never get the chance to see the light of day – instead being aborted in the womb in a modern-day resurrection of eugenics.
But for her part, Gemma says she never even considered getting the tests done that might have revealed her daughter’s condition, since she and her partner had resolved “to love whatever child they were blessed with,” in the words of the Daily Mail reporter.
However, she does confess that it came as a blow when, shortly after birth, the doctor announced that Taya probably had Down syndrome.
“From that moment I was mourning for the child I hadn’t had,” she said. “We couldn’t help but selfishly wonder why this had happened to us. We weren’t prepared for it. We couldn’t celebrate. We felt numb and grief-stricken; just devastated.”
However, since then Gemma says she has not only adjusted to her daughter’s condition, but has come to embrace it.
“I am determined Taya will have as many chances in life as any other child,” she says. “I want her to go to dancing school. She loves music and has a sense of rhythm; she sways and claps her hands when I sing to her.”
“When people say ‘poor you’ I find it offensive and irritating. The way I see it, some people cannot even have children and God has given me this special child.”

from The Stir:

Taya Kennedy is rocking the modeling world. The 14-month-old's mother submitted her pictures to a top British modeling agency, and soon after she got a call saying they liked what they saw. A photo shoot followed, and Taya has since been lining up the gigs as advertisers are drawn to her bright smile and natural chemistry with the camera.
It's your typical baby modeling story, only Taya isn't typical -- she was born with Down syndrome. The agency says that, however, has nothing to do with why they or advertisers love her; her mother says it has nothing to do with what she will accomplish in life. It's an inspirational story all around.
Alysia Lewis, owner of the agency that signed Taya, told the Daily Mail:
That she has Down’s Syndrome did not enter the equation. We chose her because of her vibrancy and sense of fun. Not all children are comfortable in front of a lens and with a photographer looking at them — especially when they are so young. But Taya was so relaxed and happy. She was just what we were looking for.
When you look at the gorgeous pictures of Taya, you see nothing but a beautiful child. Any limitations that she may face are nowhere evident, and she's such an amazing reminder of the beauty -- both internal and external -- in faces that many deem tragic.
Her mother, Gemma Andre, told the paper that people often feel sorry for her when they learn Taya has Down syndrome, but she sees her daughter as a gift. She said at birth, she was given a list of all the things Taya wouldn't be able to do and delays she would encounter. One by one though Taya is busting through them all and appears to show no sign of slowing down. 
I love this story for so many reasons, but one is that because, big or small, all children face challenges and limitations in life. We hope and pray for them to be perfect or "normal," but just because they aren't by medical definitions doesn't mean they aren't in other ways. And really, no matter what challenges they face, the best thing we can do as parents and as citizens is to focus on what they can do instead of what they can't do and accept them. As Andre said:

With Taya you get the whole package: she has her difficulties, but she is clever, strong, and she laughs all the time. She has such an expressive little face. People say, "Don’t you wish she was a normal child?" but without her disability she wouldn’t be Taya, so we wouldn’t change anything about her.
I hope to see her on the cover of Vogue one day.

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