"A 21st Century Man Will Rejoice in the Fight against Harassment": Three Special Models and Natalia Vodianova on Inclusion in the Fashion World


Natalia Vodianova and Madeline Stewart

For millions of ordinary girls, the fashion world has always seemed very closed. Not so long ago, it seemed that getting on the catwalk was a pipe dream. And this dream did not inspire, because hardly attainable model parameters for many girls were only a source of depression, and the race for these ideals led many to health problems. Today the situation is changing, and the podium is becoming an opportunity to show that beauty is different, and to give a sense of confidence to everyone.

The model world is experiencing a boom in popularity plus-size-models and models-transgender people. Girls with developmental features are not so widely represented on the world catwalks, but their examples are no less inspiring! The foundation does a lot for the integration of such models. Natalia Vodianova "Naked hearts." SPLETNIK.RU asked three special models to tell about themselves and their work in the fashion world, and Natalia Vodianova – share your thoughts on the prospects of an inclusive fashion world.

Madeline Stewart, 22 years old, first model with Down Syndrome

The career of Australian model Madeline Stuart began when she attended a fashion show at the end of 2015 with her mother Rosanna and told her that she wanted to become a model. Rosanna knew that it would require a lot of work and dedication, but assured Madeline that if she was serious, she would support her. Madeline excluded too high-calorie and unwholesome foods from the diet, which helped her lose weight by 20 kilograms.

Ulyana Sergeenko and Madeline StewartUlyana Sergeenko and Madeline Stewart

In addition, she began to actively engage in sports: five days a week, she swam in the pool, rode a bicycle and danced. Madeline's tenacity allowed her to achieve the goal. Photos of Madeline after losing weight were in newspapers around the world, and very soon the girl received offers from fashion brands.

Madeline with mom RosannaMadeline with mom Rosanna

Over the past four years, she has worked at more than 100 shows around the world, including fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris. Madeline also constantly supports charities. She took part in a charity show organized by the Naked Hearts foundation.

Madeline Stewart at Ulyana Sergeenko Fashion Show as part of Love Ball ArabiaMadeline Stewart at Ulyana Sergeenko Fashion Show as part of Love Ball Arabia

The most difficult thing in the modeling business for me was to prove to people that I am a professional. Sometimes people see that I have a disability, and suggest that I need help or that I can’t do what every other model does. Only after they work with me do they realize that I am as professional as any other model. I dream of continuing my modeling career and working with the most famous brands: Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Versace. And, of course, continue to advocate for the rights of all people with special needs,

– Madeline shared.

Isabelle Gular and Madeline StewartIsabelle Gular and Madeline Stewart

I don’t think that I can break stereotypes regarding people with special needs, but it seems to me that over time the fashion industry will become more inclusive, this inclusion will be a true reflection of our real world,

Said Stuart.

Madeline StewartMadeline Stewart

Although Madeline speaks very modestly of her own abilities to change the fashion world, it is hard not to notice that much can be achieved thanks to the common efforts and support of such models. So, in May of this year at the Fashion Week in Colombia, designer Helena Pretelt invited models with developmental features to her show. Such initiatives are important not only from the point of view of the social context – brands that refuse to inclusion, today lose not only a positive image, but also money.

Natalia Vodianova and Madeline StewartNatalia Vodianova and Madeline Stewart

The integration of models with developmental peculiarities began in the world about ten years ago, when the business realized that people with disabilities are a large solvent audience. And now the lack of models for people with disabilities is a serious loss of income. Moreover, brand inclusion starts from stores where staff can work with any client, to models that appear on the catwalk. At the same time, ideas about beauty are changing, and now models with developmental features can increasingly be found on the catwalk, on the pages of glossy magazines. There are also special agencies working with such models.

The Naked Hearts Foundation, for example, has been collaborating with the British agency ZEBEDEE Management for several years now – models and actors with Down syndrome regularly work at our Fabulous Fund Fair in London along with other industry representatives. And this is not just a charity story, they do not participate only in some closed parties. Among the agency’s clients are such popular global brands as Mercedes Benz, Apple, H&M, that is, more and more brands are turning their attention to inclusion,

– said Natalia Vodianova.

Natalya VodyanovaNatalya Vodyanova

Aygerim Ayapbergenova, 27 years old, Kazakhstan model with hearing impairment

Aygerim Ayapbergenova came into fashion from sports. The girl is engaged in swimming, she is a master of sports and a multiple champion of Kazakhstan in swimming and athletics among the deaf. On account of Aigerim 10 gold and 10 silver medals obtained at various international competitions.

Aygerim AyapbergenovaAygerim Ayapbergenova

I got into the modeling business very spontaneously: I received an offer on Instagram from the agency Goltsman models, and, seeing their work, I realized that this place was for me. The most difficult thing in the modeling business for me was walking in heels. I always dreamed of performing on the world podium, and thanks to the participation in the fashion show of one of the most significant international charity events, Love Ball Arabia, my dream came true.

My dream now is to graduate from the Sports Academy and train people with various disabilities. And as a model, I would like to take part in shows of such brands as Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior. I think that by my example I can help those like me to realize myself in life and find my way,

Aigerim admitted.

Natalya Vodyanova also pays a lot of attention to training – after all, support is sometimes needed not so much for people with special needs as their close ones. The information vacuum often makes such people feel helpless, leaving them in the shade, while those who have not encountered similar situations in life themselves do not get the opportunity to learn more about them, so the goal of the Russian model fund is to conduct as many public campaigns.

The Naked Hearts Foundation helps children with autism and other disorders by educating adults – their parents, speech therapists, kindergarten workers, and schools. For this, we bring to Russia all assistance programs with proven effectiveness. We support families raising children with developmental disabilities throughout their lives: starting from the moment of diagnosis, when parents are taught the Early Bird program, right up to preparation for kindergarten, school and accompanied adult accommodation.

Since 2004, with the help of our projects, we have helped more than 10,000 people! However, without changing the attitude of society as a whole towards people with special needs and members of their families, the rest of the work does not make sense. That is why one of the key areas of the fund’s activities is advocacy,

– shared Vodianova.

Anastasia Abroskina, 28 years old, the first model in Russia with cerebral palsy

Anastasia Abroskina also achieved impressive results in sports. The girl is a six-time champion of Russia in Paralympic equestrian sports. Today it is known as the first model in Russia with cerebral palsy.

Anastasia AbroskinaAnastasia Abroskina

Together with her husband, photographer Marat Mukhonkin, Anastasia oversees the project “Inspired by you,” whose characters are people with disabilities. In 2014, the girl herself became the heroine of this project, and then, when sponsors refused support, she proposed to take on the development. Now Anastasia already has two children, but she does not give up her social activities and modeling career.

Anastasia Abroskina

We decided to make a book – not only with photographs, but also the stories of people with cerebral palsy, written by themselves. We deliberately did not cut out unpleasant moments, as is usually done. This is the truth about disability that needs to be addressed. People with disabilities themselves need the truth. If you read the comments on other social projects, they write: “Why are you doing such simple and sentimental things? Our life is much more complicated. Just getting help from a pension fund is already a quest”,

– Anastasia told about her project.

Anastasia Abroskina

Without embellishment and sincerely, Abroskina talks about her path in the model world.

They didn’t love me at school, they scoffed and called me Freddy Krueger. In high school, a goal appeared – to show special beauty to the world. I belong to the generation that grew up on glossy magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Glamor. Then I was inspired by models with their stunning looks, especially Cindy Crawford. I studied on her exercise cassette, despite cerebral palsy.

And once I came to the pool, changed clothes, walked along the side and went down into the water, and one woman exclaimed: "Nastya made a catwalk in a swimsuit, model!" I was surprised: I didn’t even think of anything like this. And she said that I have a straight back and a good figure. This episode was very memorable, although I was often compared with models in my youth,

– remembered Anastasia.

Anastasia Abroskina at the Ulyana Sergeenko show as part of Love Ball ArabiaAnastasia Abroskina at the Ulyana Sergeenko show as part of Love Ball Arabia

It was necessary to start alone: ​​she did not have like-minded people, her parents also reacted negatively to modeling, probably anticipating what difficulties Nastya could expect. But in achieving her goal, Abroskina was persistent and registered on the site where photographers are looking for models.

At first, I deliberately did not write about disability. This is especially important to me: to be a good model without a disability discount. I went to auditions, sent applications for projects that I liked, took photos. I talked about cerebral palsy either before the meeting, or on it in fact. After a year and a half, I became bolder and wrote in the model parameters next to the freckles – “I have a disability”. And the invitations were gone. For several months it was quiet, they refused me.

When I removed this line, the proposals resumed. But I felt that I was hiding myself. I also recall how the casting director shouted at me and poked a cigarette in my face: "On *** (why. – Note ed.) you freak come? There wasn’t enough people with disabilities only in the industry! "Cerebral palsy doesn’t save anything. It didn’t break me,

– said Anastasia.

Anastasia Abroskina

Unfortunately, the Russian fashion industry is far behind in this respect from the western one. This is confirmed by Natalia Vodianova.

In Russia, such displays are still single in nature, while models with developmental features often work for special brands that create adaptive clothing. This is due to the fact that in general our society is just beginning to become inclusive. Although in recent years I see that significant positive changes have occurred.

Children with developmental disabilities began to be treated differently in children's playgrounds, and in public places, and in supermarkets. And yet, if we talk about inclusion, for many people it is only ramps in public places or a low threshold in a bus,

– said the model.

Ulyana Sergeenko and Natalya Vodyanova with models at the show as part of Love Ball ArabiaUlyana Sergeenko and Natalya Vodyanova with models at the show as part of Love Ball Arabia

Anastasia has her own explanation for this situation.

I understood early that Russian society was not yet ready for special models. Medieval superstitions are still too much in us, and therefore rarely does anyone want to buy goods that a model with a disability demonstrates: what if I become the same, chur-chur! We do not have goods and services for people with disabilities, profile orders for advertising and promotion in this category. We (models with features) work only in social projects: cultural, mass, motivational, but not commercial. And in the world, models with disabilities are already walking the global catwalks of the largest fashion weeks,

– repeats Natalya Anastasia, although she admits that certain positive changes have already been outlined.

Anastasia Abroskina

For ten years of modeling career, much has changed. Special models no longer cause public resistance. At least we, people who create projects about special beauty, try to change this. But still I meet trolling under my interviews and posts, the mention of the freak circus. But the circus was 200 years ago: if you see it here, then your views, alas, are outdated. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Stereotypes of perception only reflect human development.

A 21st century person will be tolerant and rejoice in the fight against bullying and stigmatization. I am proud that I live at this time and become part of a change in consciousness. I am waiting for daredevils in Russia, unlike everyone, to start creating. Beauty is not about correctness and natural appeal. She is about the unusual and individuality that catch,

– summed up Anastasia.


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