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This 25-Year-Old Model With Down Syndrome Is Helping To Transform The Fashion Industry


The fashion industry made some incredible leaps in featuring diverse models during the early 21st century. Yet, those with disabilities frequently continued to be underrepresented and excluded. Thankfully, many such models made it their mission to alter the fashion industry to become more inclusive and accepting of models with disabilities. This included Chelsea Werner, who proved that Down syndrome couldn’t stop her from becoming a killer model.

Defying The Odds From Day One

Growing up, Danville, California native Chelsea Werner was no stranger to doubt. She was born into a world that would frequently try to limit her due to her Down syndrome. Luckily, despite those who tried to box her in with her disability, Werner and her parents never doubted her abilities. From an early age, her parents ensured she seized every opportunity, especially those which doctors believed would be impossible to achieve.

Forbes/Jen Lovely/Chelsea Werner

When Werner, now 25, was just a baby, doctors predicted that she would struggle with muscle definition for her entire life. Yet, Werner defied the odds as a child when she picked up gymnastics, quickly excelling at the sport. Eventually, she became a competitive gymnast and went on to win the Special Olympics National Gymnastic Championships — four years in a row. Incredible, right? However, Werner didn’t want to limit herself just to sports.

Boldly Pursuing Modeling

Thanks to confidence from her gymnastics career, Werner decided that she wanted to try her hand at modeling. Unfortunately, her first efforts to break into the business were heavily criticized. Despite seeking out multiple agencies in California, Werner and her mother were told that a model with a disability couldn’t succeed. Yet, Werner knew better. She grew up bucking the odds, and she was more than prepared to prove those doubtful agencies wrong.

Teen Vogue/Mission Magazine

Thankfully, Werner was picked up by the inclusive agency WeSpeak. They were founded with a mission to transform the world of fashion by representing unique, optimistic, and diverse models. Werner fit the bill perfectly! Signing on with the supportive company was only the first step. With their help, Werner’s modeling career began to blossom in ways that no one could have expected.

Transforming The Fashion Industry

From fashion shows to magazine spreads, Werner began to make her mark on the fashion industry. Before long, the bright young woman began to tackle runways, fashion gigs, and advertisement spreads across the country. She starred in advertisements for Aerie, runways for H&M, and even scored a spot on the front cover of Teen Vogue. Now, who was it that said disabled models couldn’t thrive?

Mission Magazine/WeSpeak

Truthfully, between her gymnastics and modeling careers, Werner wasn’t just living the dream — she was paving a path for others with Down syndrome to recognize their abilities. Werner challenged every stereotype that the world tried to assign her, thriving in both sports and fashion. “Everyone has challenges in their lives,” Werner said, “but it’s how you deal with those challenges that makes all the difference.”

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