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Model with Down syndrome takes fashion world by storm

Popular fashion retailer Wet Seal has a new model who is turning heads and making headlines. She describes her style as “biker chick,” prefers Justin Bieber music on the set of her photo shoots, and has gained the admiration of thousands of fans and counting.

Her name is Karrie Brown, she’s a 17-year-old high school junior from Illinois, and she has Down syndrome.

Karrie is a natural in front of the camera and to support her dreams of being a model, her mother Sue started a Facebook page called, “Karrie Brown — Modeling the Future.” People immediately took notice and worked hard to bring Karrie to Wet Seal’s attention.

When the fashion company saw that her page had over 10,000 likes, they flew Karrie and Sue out to their headquarters in California for a photo shoot and accompanying ad campaign. Like most companies, Wet Seal expresses a commitment to diversity on its website; unlike most companies, they really act on their words.

“When it gets right down to the wire [a lot of companies] don’t really practice what they preach,” Sue said in an interview with TODAY.com. “Wet Seal has been phenomenal. There was no hesitation for Karrie to come out there.”

Karrie’s story is yet another example of the awesome power of technology to unite people and create significant and positive change by fighting for a common goal. A simple Facebook page gave Karrie the presence and power to directly impact a huge number of people.

If you want to promote more inclusive depictions of women and girls in the media (or, by the same token, if you want to hold companies accountable for sexist and harmful images), start a blog, a Facebook page, create a petition on Change.org and spread the word. There is a community of people out there who share your opinions and can help you change the world.

Take advantage of this lightning-quick communication — at the very least, you’ll be raising awareness for your cause and inspire people to reconsider conventional ideas of “beauty.”

It’s worth noting that Karrie’s ability to dress comfortably and fashionably in Wet Seal clothing started when the company began carrying plus-size clothing. At the time of this writing, Karrie’s Facebook page has over 26,000 likes.

This is a clear demonstration of a world craving exciting, diverse, and, most importantly, realistic depictions of women (remember this Glamour model?).

Props to Wet Seal for supporting diversity and choosing models that are beautiful inside and out — and a standing ovation for Karrie for redefining stereotypical perceptions of people with Down syndrome (and looking fashionable and awesome while doing so).

If you could promote a certain depiction of women that is underrepresented in the media, what would it be? What are other ways to encourage clothing companies to be mindful of diversity in their ads?

Allie Semperger studied English at Kalamazoo College and screenwriting at UCLA. After studying abroad in London and traveling around Europe, she became a travel lover for life, and is always making plans for her next adventure. She recommends Marina and the Diamonds. She created the feminist Tumblr blog, Women’s Issues Are Society’s Issues, and aspires to make the world a better place for women and girls.

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