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Getting Started - Models with Down Syndrome
A delightful development in catalogs and other advertising media has been the discovery of talented models of all ages and races who also express the diversity of our communities by having Down syndrome. Encouraging representation of people with disabilities in the media has been an advocacy goal for many years. More recently, children and teens with Down syndrome have begun appearing in ads without comments or publicity advertising their appearance.
Although there may be even less racial diversity among models with Down syndrome compared to the general population of models working in advertising, there are greater opportunities for all children and teens due to agencies like DSiAM - Down Syndrome in Arts and Media - in Los Angeles. Families from across the country respond to DSiAM when messages are shared via local support and advocacy groups about opportunities in their area, or they may contact DSiAM for information and support when their child is offered modeling work or auditions.
Some babies and toddlers featured in advertising have parents or family friends who are talented photographers, who design clothes, or work in related businesses. Excellent photographers may discover talent when a local Down syndrome organization decides to publish an awareness or fund-raising calendar, brochure, or other publication. Our babies are adorable, and our older sons and daughters who have Down syndrome are attractive, vibrant people who can easily turn their talents to marketing clothes, toys and other products.
Families invest a great deal of time and effort when a child or teen works as a model, and a catalog shoot or other modeling job can be taxing on the child even if everything goes as planned. Parents can prepare themselves by networking via DSiAM or reading about other families' experiences.
Children and teens who are interested in being models may prepare by learning the basics at a local parks department class or community theater, or there may be an agency that offers classes and support. It is important to be aware that there are businesses who prey upon mainstream children and their families, offering classes and even representation at high cost with no benefits. No matter how professional or persuasive the salesman, there is no guarantee that the staff, office manager, instructor, or photographer are trustworthy individuals. This is also true at reputable businesses where a predatory individual can take advantage of children in vulnerable situations. If you feel uneasy about a situation, person, or have safety concerns about a physical location or activity, don't hesitate to protect your child.
Giving a child practice posing and working with props can be as easy as booking a photography chain or department store photography session from stores that offer low price packages (with the hope that parents will want to buy every shot). Small businesses that do graduation photos or photographers just starting out who want to build portfolios for their Facebook pages may offer less expensive packages during their slow season.
Children with Down syndrome, like their siblings and mainstream peers, may behave quite differently for professional photographers who have experience working with children. Many factors can influence a child's mood once they are rested, fed, groomed, dressed, and delivered. The novelty of a staged set and a professional photographer's directions can bring out unexpected poise and cooperation, and first timers can behave as though they were seasoned professionals. Children with Down syndrome have impressed us for generations by rising to higher expectations. Also, mainstream children in the long history of child models have probably left only happy surprises for photographers working for the first time with toddlers to teens with Down syndrome.
Browse at your local bookstore, public library or online retailer for books like Show Biz Bible: The authoritative book on Modeling & Acting or Lights, Camera...You!: Make money doing TV commercials in Los Angeles or Any Town, U.S.A.. While books may have interesting stories and a great deal of anecdotal information, it is more important to keep your child's best interests at heart, and to establish relationships with trustworthy individuals for positive experiences.
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