Katie Meade has faced numerous hurdles in her life.
“Being born with Down syndrome can cause many problems, both physical and mental,” she wrote in an earlier interview. “Kids would make fun of me. I wasn’t always accepted by the ‘normal’ kids and that hurt.”
As a child, Meade battled myriad health problems and had to undergo two open heart surgeries. Later, she overcame bullying in school and became a Special Olympics athlete, competing in several sports including gymnastics and basketball.
Now, the 32-year-old has surmounted yet another barrier: She’s been selected as the spokesmodel for the new haircare line Beauty & Pin-Ups. The brand recently announced the appointment on its website. According to People magazine, Meade is the first woman with Down syndrome to be featured as the face of a beauty campaign.
“The Beauty & Pin-Ups brand is a celebration of the empowerment of a woman and what it took to be a pin-up in 1935, and carrying that message in a modern sense,” Beauty & Pin-Ups CEO Kenny Kahn told People. “So as we were launching this product, in our mind it could have been the next traditional pin-up — but as soon as we came up with the name ‘Fearless.’ it was really easy, we were like, ‘Well Katie’s fearless.’”
Kahn met Meade through Best Buddies International, a nonprofit that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Meade is an ambassador for the organization.
“People see me for who I am and they see me not as someone with a disability, but that I have ability,” Meade told People. “And I like to try new different things and I inspire women to do that. Beauty belongs to everybody.
Last year, actress Jamie Brewer made headlines for becoming the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week. A few months later, model Madeline Stuart, who has Down syndrome, made her NYFW debut.
Beth Sullivan, chair of the International Down Syndrome Coalition, told The Mighty that models like Meade, Brewer and Stuart were shattering boundaries for people with disabilities.
“Katie is the most recent model with Down syndrome to make headlines,” Sullivan said. “These models are putting Down syndrome in the spotlight and showing the world how capable and beautiful they are while simultaneously demonstrating that people with Down syndrome are competent and useful members of society and can add value to businesses and workplaces.”