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And to paraphrase Lizzo, it’s about damn time.
It’s often mused by older, more cynical generations that youth is wasted on the young but just try telling that to Monika Myers, the 14-year-old model with Down syndrome making global headlines for her fashionable activism. While her introductory runway was technically when she was only three, this spring she made her debut as the first model with Down syndrome to participate in Toronto Kids Fashion Week, then a few months later she made an appearances on the Primark runway during New York Fashion Week. Most recently, she continued making history as the first model with Down syndrome to be featured in Fashion Art Toronto (FAT) earlier this month, thanks to the casting choices of designers Lesley Hampton and Amelia Tuu.
“It was such an honour to model on the opening night of FAT,” shares Monika via email. “Everyone was nice and fun to work with, and I felt strong, brave and beautiful in my outfit.”
The Toronto talent reveals that growing up, she’s had a soft spot for clothes and dressing up, but that her “aha” modelling moment didn’t appear until her teens. While watching a movie, Monika commented on how beautiful one of the actresses was. Her mom, Stephanie replied, “You think so?” to which Monika earnestly responded, “Mom, every woman is beautiful!” This prompted Stephanie to ask her daughter if she’d like to explore more opportunities in the spotlight, and Monika replied with an enthusiastic yes.
“Monika has always viewed having Down syndrome as only one part of her identity,” writes the model’s mother. “She has never let it define who she is.” Nor should she. It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a diversity problem but in recent years, things have started to change. In 2020, Ellie Goldstein, another model with Down syndrome, became the face of Gucci beauty and an Instagram post featuring her became the brand’s most liked image ever. And Madeline Stuart has been featured in a multitude of magazines since 2015.
Monika considers both of them to be role models. “They don’t allow their condition to limit themselves from doing what they love,” she says, but reiterates that she finds inspiration and beauty from all women everywhere. “We all look a little different but that’s what’s so beautiful about everyone.”
Stephanie wholeheartedly agrees, adding that models like Monika “not only represent people with Down syndrome but people with visible differences and disabilities.” She continues: “Historically, I think it was ignorance or lack of awareness that caused misconceptions or stereotyping. But society has gradually become more educated, compassionate and accepting of others.”
Looking to the future, this Gen Z groundbreaker hopes to continue her journey as a model and inspire others like her along the way. She’s even created a bracelet business called “I am Brave and Beautiful” as a physical reminder to always pursue your passion. “I love this dream and I’m going to take it as far as it goes,” Monika shares. After all, you’re only young once.