A schoolgirl with Down syndrome has become the latest face of multiple big brand campaigns, including River Island.
Grace Castle, from Leeds, is only five years old, but she’s already built up quite an impressive portfolio of models.
Castle, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth, only started modeling two years ago, but already has shoots for River Island and JD Sports under her belt.
If her modeling career continues the way it’s going, it won’t be long before she joins supermodel Madeline Stuart on the runway.
The 25-year-old redhead is the world’s first professional catwalk model with Down syndrome, having walked on more than 100 catwalks and posed in advertisements for prestigious brands such as Diesel.
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This long-awaited rise in inclusion in the modeling industry is something Grace’s mother, Linda Castle, 44, hopes her daughter will continue to help promote.
“It’s really interesting what we perceive as beauty because we’re so used to seeing ‘unreal’ types of people selling clothes,” says Castle, who runs a cafe in Garforth, Leeds.
As well as being very proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, Castle is thrilled that big brands encourage diversity in their advertising.
“I’m very proud to see different people start to be represented,” she says.
“There’s still a long way to go to change what we perceive as ‘normal’, but it’s refreshing to see brands becoming more holistic and real in their approach.”
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“When she was eight months old, we started looking for support groups online,” her mother continues. Her heart did not face major health complications.
His mother describes the day as “one of the happiest of our lives”.
Since beginning her modeling career two years ago, Grace has made a name for herself appearing in commercials for CBeebies, Children in Need, JD sports, and securing repeat bookings for River Island.
“It was a surprising diagnosis and we were trying to figure out what could be done for his situation.
“We came across a group in Scunthorpe that initially did dance and theater for children with learning difficulties, but later became a modeling agency and we wanted to try it out for some fun.
“She was in his books and we went to London for her first photo shoot with the clothing company, Boden, and it ended up in their catalogue, which was amazing.”
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Since beginning her modeling career two years ago, Grace has made a name for herself by appearing in commercials for CBeebies, Children in Need, JD sports, and securing repeat bookings for River Island.
After a quiet period during the COVID-19 pandemic, bookings are now pouring in for the school girl, with the family recently traveling to Spain for a photo shoot.
“Grace loves the camera and has a lot of fun doing it,” Castle continues.
“During the River Island sessions, she plays or does an activity and they take candid photos of her.
“It’s just for a bit of fun and the money can go towards his future.”
Her older siblings Josh, 14, Kara, 13, and Brooke, eight, are incredibly proud of their little sister, as are their friends at school and in their support groups.
“They love to see her around because everyone wants to see someone who looks like them,” says Castle.
“Everyone at her school knows her and the moms and kids loved seeing her appear on their TV. She has celebrity status on the playground!”
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Grace is just one of a growing number of inspiring kids and teens helping to challenge modeling norms.
Kate Grant, from Cookstown in Co Tyrone, is also leading the way for other people with disabilities.
The 23-year-old, who also has Down syndrome, recently became a brand ambassador for cosmetics giant Benefit and was also crowned champion in the Teen Ultimate Beauty Of The World contest.
“She is paving the way for the people who are coming after her,” says her mother, Deirdre Grant.
“She is aware of that and wants to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with disabilities and that is what she has done from the beginning.
“She is aware that she can do that in a way that some of her friends can’t. She is using her voice for them.”
Meanwhile, teenager Joseph Hale also recently landed a modeling campaign for River Island.
Hale was recruited by the high street fashion brand for its latest children’s campaign and was credited as an inspiration to promote equality in the fashion industry.
“Disability shouldn’t define them,” Hale’s mother, Karen, said. Grimsby Telegraph. “Jose is a person. The Down of him is a small part of him. There is much more to see than face value.”
Additional reports Caters.