Every now and then, we come across a story that is so moving that you can’t help but be inspired. There are stories of people proving that they can do anything they set their minds on and fulfill all of their lifelong dreams. What might have once seemed like a distant hope can certainly become a tangible goal under the right circumstances – and with enough hard work and dedication. This has been such the case for one young, ambitious model.
Francesca Rausi is a 5-year-old fashion model from Malta with Down syndrome. For the past few years, she has been captivating audiences all over the world as people cannot get enough of viewing this beautiful little girl’s incredible walk and stunning features. She may still be young, but she is already making a name for herself.
The 5-year-old had walked at a fashion show for disabled models in the tiny country of Malta in 2019 when she was just the tender age of 4. Since then, Francesca has participated in many other modeling competitions, including one that won her the Top Junior Model title, among several other amazing achievements.
Francesca is not the only model with Down syndrome who has been making a scene in the fashion world, but she certainly is one of the youngest. Francesca has been challenging society’s perception of what it means to be beautiful ever since she took up modeling as a career. Read on to find out more about this inspiring young girl and what her career looks like now.
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In an interview with apost, her mother, Michelle, said that Francesca has been modeling since she was a toddler. Since then, she has appeared more than five times on the catwalk at fashion shows and has become very comfortable with her role.
It all started when Michelle’s friend, who runs a leading model agency in Malta, persuaded her to have Francesca walk in a fashion show. And although skeptical at first, Michelle then signed Francesca up in a modeling competition.
“Another friend of mine asked me to take her to a modeling competition and I was scared at first,” she shared. “But I know Fran loves it and it will be great for (Down syndrome) awareness.”
“Wherever we go, everybody (recognizes) Francesca as she appears often on Maltese TV and social media,” added Michelle. “So whenever you are with Fran, you’ll need more time because everyone will stop us in the streets, in restaurants, wherever we are.”
One of Francesca’s appearances was in a model fashion show in Malta organized by Tiziana Randisi in an effort to promote the inclusion of disabled women in the world of fashion. The show featured 22 models with various disabilities, aged 4 to 24. The goal was to change the minds of people who think of a disability as a limit and to show that these models are not limited at all.
One of the other participants of this special event in Malta was Madeline Stuart. Stuart was herself born with Down syndrome and is one of the most successful Down syndrome models worldwide. The Australian-born model has walked many prestigious fashion shows all over the world, including the New York, Paris, and London fashion weeks.
Stuart, born in 1996 and now 25 years old, is considered to be the first professional Down syndrome model known worldwide. She is certainly a role model for young girls like Francesca Rausi and proves that having Down syndrome does not hinder your chances at a successful career.
After walking her first show back in 2015, Stuart went on to have a successful modeling and fashion career. Aside from realizing her dream of becoming a professional model, Stuart has also launched her own fashion label, 21 Reasons Why.
The label takes its name from Down syndrome itself, which is also known as trisomy 21. The reason for this is simple: Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when a human is born with a partial or complete third copy of chromosome 21. Usually, humans receive one set of chromosomes from their mother and the other from their father, ending up with two of each. Sometimes, however, circumstances during pregnancy or conception can lead to complications, resulting in an extra copy of chromosome 21.
Down syndrome is one of the most common genetic disorders worldwide. In recent studies, it is estimated that about one in 1000 babies each year worldwide are born with Down syndrome variants. In the U.S., the National Drown Syndrome Society (NDSS) states that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even one in 700 babies each year are born with it.
The exact cause of this widely spread genetic disorder is not yet known. As far as science knows today, Down syndrome is not a hereditary disorder. Almost all Down syndrome children are born to parents possessing the usual amount of chromosomes, and only 1% of known cases have been passed down from one parent.
One thing scientists can say for certain is that an expecting mother’s age affects the chance of a child being born with Down syndrome. According to the NDSS, a 35-year-old woman has roughly a 1:350 chance of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome. The chance steadily climbs higher with a woman’s age, reaching 1:100 at the age of 40. By the time of age 49, the theoretical chance is one in 10. Since more and more couples are opting to have children later in life, Down syndrome cases have also been on the rise over the last years, and more and easier screening during early pregnancy has become available.
While Down syndrome cannot be cured with today’s medicine, it is not an insurmountable problem. Children born with it experience physical and mental growth delays, developing more slowly than a child without the chromosome variant would. Every child and case of Down syndrome is also different from all others, which means there is a wide range of possible symptoms and development stages.
In general, caring for and educating children born with trisomy 21 is more time consuming but very much possible and worthwhile. In the U.S., 40% of those children with Down syndrome who attend high school graduate. Many go on to hold down steady jobs and can live independently, although most of them still require help managing their finances.
Little Francesca and Madeline Stuart are examples of people born with Down syndrome who are able to go on and pursue their dreams in life.
This heartwarming story of a plucky little girl not afraid to pursue her dreams deserves to be spread far and wide. Do you have personal experience with Down syndrome? Tell us about it and help raise awareness for Down syndrome by passing this along to your friends and family.