Jamie Brewer made history when she became the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week, making her one of many models from non-traditional backgrounds to break ground in the modeling world in recent years.
Brewer, an actress who appears in American Horror Story, modeled as part of Carrie Hammer’s “Role Models Not Runway Models” and said she hopes her appearance on the runway is an inspiration to others. She also hopes it will help people rethink what a model can be “in a massive way.”
“You need to listen to your heart, because we have many dreams,” she said. “All we need to do is listen to our hearts and work to make them reality. Whether it’s modeling or screenwriting or anything, you can put your heart and soul into it. You can change, and you can change the world.”
Jamie Brewer is not the only model from a non-traditional background to make waves in recent years. As the modeling world has opened up to women of different sizes, ages, and backgrounds, several other trailblazers have stepped forward.
Australian model Robyn Lawley burst onto the scene in 2012, appearing on the cover of Vogue Italia along with two other plus-size models. She later became the first plus-size model in Ralph Lauren history.
“Robyn is absolutely paving the way for fuller figured women to land these larger campaigns,” People magazine’s senior writer Jen Garcia said.
Like Jamie Brewer, Robyn Lawley said she hoped to be an inspiration and recounted her long journey into modeling.
“I got a huge amount of pressure to diet,” she said. “And my body, it was such a battle for me to do that because I’m such a big bone, and I’m tall and I’m broad. I really struggled to maintain that size.
“I gave up trying to be a model,” she added. “And then I moved to France and fell in love with food all over again, and came back much bigger than I was. And I saw plus- size models doing well. And I decided that I wanted that, I wanted to be in magazines.”
This year saw another groundbreaker in Ashley Graham, who became the first plus-size model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
The 26-year-old Graham, who recently completed a new ad for the Swimsuits For All swimwear brand, said she hopes her appearance can spread acceptance for women of all sizes.
“I know my curves are sexy and I want everyone else to know that theirs are too,” the size 16 model said. “There is no reason to hide and every reason to flaunt.”
Jamie Brewer made her big New York Fashion Week appearance on Thursday at Lightbox, a digital arts and events space in Manhattan.