Chelsea Werner has twice over defied the odds of Down Syndrome. First, by becoming a four-time Olympic champion; and then recently, by becoming an internationally successful model.

Her work ethic and positive attitude has gotten her on the cover of Teen Vogue, walking in New York Fashion Week, and travelling around the world for big-brand campaigns.

 

(Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Xehar Inc)

“I have always loved being in front of the camera – that’s where I got the nickname ‘Showtime’. Whenever there is a camera or an audience I am at my best. I also love to travel. My first modelling job was for H&M and I filmed it in Havana, Cuba!” – Werner

When she was born, the doctors told her parents that she would always have low muscle tone and, therefore, be unable to perform well, if at all, in physical activity. At first, it seemed as though the medics were right, since she wasn’t even able to start walking untill she was two years old.

To help her overcome her difficulties, and hopefully build some muscle tone, her parents enrolled Chelsea in gymnastics when she was around 4 years old. Little did they know, this was the beginning of a lifelong perseverance that lead to her performing at a physical peak beyond many experts’ wildest expectations.

After her fourth US National Championships win, Special Olympian Werner set her sights on an entirely new and unexpected challenge – the world of fashion modelling. Here’s what Chelsea had to say about the switchover:

“I’ve been at the top of the Gymnastics World for probably ten years now. I still enjoy it but it’s not my entire life. I got some great modelling opportunities through my gymnastics and discovered I really loved it!”

 

The fashion industry has been getting a lot of negative feedback regarding its lack of diversity. In response to this, agencies have been opening up their doors more to biodiversity, but that has only gone so far as to having plus size models or a wide variety of races. It is extremely rare to see a model with disabilities.  Yet, Chelsea doesn’t fully recognize the lack of diversity for what it is. Lisa, her mother says:

“It is slowly becoming more diverse but what they typically consider diversity is usually racial or plus size models. When it come to models with disabilities it’s pretty rare. A large segment of today’s population has some form of disability – they want and deserve to be represented!”

In response to what her mother said, Chelsea replied:

“I think it’s hard for all models. I’ve had a lot of challenges in my life and I never give up. I have a lot of people rooting for me and a good team behind me. I’m a very positive person and don’t see things as limitations. I’m pretty stubborn and work very hard. The way my parents raised me really made me feel good about myself.”

She admits to feeling very happy and proud about being a role model and filling people with hope. In a world where it is so rare to see someone with disabilities being represented as beautiful or special, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking they are not. This is a major flaw in the media today and one that people like Chelsea are proving wrong. She is the proof that there is no set definition of perfect, and we are all beautiful in our own way.

 

Chelsea has become a ray of hope for all the parents out there with children diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Her achievements with gymnastics, and inclusion into the modeling world, show others with Down Syndrome that nothing can, or should, stop them. She is showing them the way to defeat their disorder and rise above it! She makes it clear that people with Down Syndrome are as capable as anyone else of doing whatever they want!

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