An international model with Down Syndrome opened Birmingham Fashion Week on Thursday. Madeline Stuart was the first model to hit the runway, and she was met with a standing ovation. The 19-year-old Australian beauty has Down Syndrome, and has been making headlines around the world for her ability to inspire and break down barriers in the world of high fashion.

Stuart began her journey toward the runway in 2014. Her mother, Roseanne Stuart, said her daughter was overweight, and wanted to get into better shape to keep up with her friends in dance class. Madeline Stuart started meeting with a personal trainer, eating healthier and losing weight.

Then, her mother took her to a fashion show, and she decided she wanted to be a model.

Roseanne set Madeline up with a professional photographer, created a Facebook page for her, and the “likes” started pouring in. To date, the page now has more than 600,000 likes, but Roseanne said being well-liked is nothing new for her daughter.

“She’s always been the most popular girl in school. She’s always been super friendly and been invited to all the birthday parties and always been very social,” Roseanne said. “The way that she just is warm to everybody, and everybody warms to her; I always saw her like that, and now the rest of the world sees her like that. And to me, that is amazing.”

Madeline Stuart has walked runways and posed all over the world, including in New York’s famed Fashion Week.

“In the beginning, people thought it was just a big advertising campaign, but now people can see that she’s actually made it in the fashion world,” Roseanne said.

While Roseanne admits that her daughter “has become a little bit of a diva,” she always stays grounded and true to her message.

“Most of the campaigns Madeline’s done have either been about helping people with disabilities, helping people– children with schooling, or trying to get people to realize everybody is beautiful,” Roseanne said.

Madeline has broken a lot of boundaries, but Roseanne says the “glass ceiling” over the fashion industry is still intact.

“She’s modeling, she’s doing fashion week, she’s doing a lot of charity work, but the big companies, like Chanel and them, they’re not taking her seriously yet,” Roseanne said. “That, to me, is what I really want to see happen, because when that happens, we really do know that the world has evolved, and people are embracing her on all levels.”

Madeline Stuart Birmingham Fashion Week

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