The media feeds us a toxic set of ideas about beauty. According to TV, movies, and magazines, only conventionally attractive people can be considered beautiful, and everyone else should hold themselves up to an unattainable standard.
The world of fashion is still dominated by young, thin, white people with no visible disabilities. These standards don’t apply to the majority of the population, and leave minorities feeling alienated.
With almost 13% of the US population living with a disability, advocates argue that the current situation is unacceptable, and that everyone deserves fair representation in the media.
Fortunately, some people are willing to break the rules and encourage the world to expand its definition of beauty.
By going against mainstream ideals, they promote body acceptance and a healthier approach to our society’s obsession with appearance.
The story of Chelsea Werner
Chelsea Werner, a gymnast and model from CA, is just 26 years old but has already inspired people around the world. Chelsea was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome as a baby.
This chromosomal condition, which is also known as trisomy 21, is seen in people who have an extra copy of chromosome 21.
A woman of any age can give birth to a baby with this syndrome, but the chances increase as a woman gets older. A 20-year-old woman has a 1 in 1,500 chance of giving birth to a baby with this diagnosis, which shoots up to 1 in 50 for women aged 45 or over.
Down’s Syndrome causes mild to moderate learning disabilities, coupled with hallmark physical traits including below-average birth weight, eyes that slant outwards and upwards, and a small mouth.
Another common feature of the syndrome is low muscle tone. Chelsea’s parents were told that she would probably have this problem for the rest of her life. Nevertheless, they encouraged her to try several sports and physical activities. At a young age, Chelsea began regular training, and went on to display unusual aptitude for floor routines.
She has picked up an impressive collection of awards, winning the Special Olympics National Gymnastics Championships four times. Chelsea has also triumphed at an international level, winning the Down Syndrome International World Championship 2012 and 2015.
Chelsea’s coach has highlighted how hard Chelsea has had to work for her accomplishments. When she started training, she struggled to walk from one end of a balance beam to the other.
Chelsea’s modeling career
In 2016, H&M featured Chelsea in a campaign that showcased athletes who had fought against significant obstacles on their path to success. In the same year, she was also asked to model during New York Fashion Week. In 2018, she was interviewed for Teen Vogue.
Chelsea also took part in Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign, which aimed to establish Aerie as an inclusive retailer of women’s underwear. Referring to her involvement in the campaign, she said, “I’m proud. I love it.”
She is currently signed with the WeSpeak agency, which prides itself on representing models that don’t conform to mainstream ideals of beauty.
Chelsea has been featured on the Today Show, been interviewed live with makeup artist Bobbi Brown, and continues to earn thousands of followers on Instagram who love her upbeat approach to life.
As both a gymnast and a model, Chelsea has proven herself to be a determined, driven young woman who seeks to help others. She states that building her skills as a gymnast has helped her develop confidence, which has then spilled over into other areas of her life.
Although she was turned down by several modelling agencies, both Chelsea and her parents made it their mission to help her break into the industry, and they succeeded. Chelsea’s story is proof that, with enough effort and tenacity, you can make your dreams come true.
The power of breaking stereotypes
Chelsea’s mother, Lisa Werner, is extremely proud of the part Chelsea has played in encouraging people to rethink how they perceive people with disabilities.
Many of Chelsea’s followers on social media have children diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, and they are grateful that Chelsea has been willing to step up as a role model.
In an interview with A Plus, Chelsea said, “I don’t think people with Down’s Syndrome are represented enough…The more we are represented, the more people will see how capable we are.”
Thanks to pioneers like Chelsea, our society is gradually becoming a more welcome, tolerant place for diverse models and athletes who don’t fit the usual stereotypes.
Her work, and that of others with disabilities, helps pave the way for a more inclusive world.