An Arizona mom is organizing photo shoots for young aspiring models with disabilities, inspired by her own 4-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome.
Maria Jordan MacKeigan of Tuscon hated that the other kids she saw in posters, commercials and television shows look nothing like her youngest daughter, Jordan Grace.
Jordan Grace, 4, has Down syndrome and aspires to be a model.
“She loves the camera,” MacKeigan told InsideEdition.com. “She's very social. She loves to be around people. She loves to talk to people, she loves to play with kids.”
At a recent headshot clinic, MacKeigan couldn’t help but notice every other tot in the room getting their photos taken was able-bodied and neurotypical.
“You know, perfection. What we as a society see as perfection,” she explained. “I had her with me and I was thinking, 'What about someone that looks like her?'”
Pairing up with Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit that advocates for inclusive imagery in media, MacKeigan decided to host her own headshot clinic, inviting kids with any disability to come have their photo taken to send to modeling and advertisement agencies.
“The main idea is for people to be OK and see people like her in commercials and TV, and normalize that people who have disabilities can be approached,” MacKeigan said. “They are also consumers – they buy the products, they wear the products, they eat the products. They need to be included as well.”
Representation was also especially important to MacKeigan, who, prior to having Jordan Grace, had no idea what life with a daughter with special needs would look like.
“I was so scared,” she said. “I thought literally that our lives were over because I never knew anybody with Down syndrome.”
MacKeigan, who is deeply religious, said at one point her fear was so deep she considered terminating her pregnancy.
“A professional told me that she would be a burden to society,” MacKeigan said, through tears. “The doctor gave me the diagnosis that she wouldn't be able to feed herself, she wouldn't be able to dress herself, that she would most likely end up in an institution and he was so negative and me not knowing anybody with Down syndrome, I believed him.”
But after Jordan Grace was born, MacKeigan’s fears dissipated and she soon learned that life with a daughter with Down syndrome was much brighter than she had originally imagined.
“She’s like our little sunshine,” MacKeigan said. “Every minute of every day, she lives and loves with such passion, and she enjoys the little simple things in life, you know. She stops and smells the flowers when we're running late.”
She’s hoping her advocacy will make the world a more inclusive place.
In fact, MacKeigan said thanks to Changing the Face of Beauty, more than 100 companies nationwide have pledged to include models with disabilities in their advertising.
“I want people to accept her and I want to normalize Down syndrome,” she said. “We can’t set limits on people with disabilities.”