Ups and downs: Madeline Stuart's story of struggle and stardom

Wednesday 8th June, 2016

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Australia’s budding model and dance star Madeline Stuart is on her way to take London. Alive spoke with the Brisbane beauty and her mother.

In many ways, Madeline Stuart personifies your average 19-year-old.

Like most young people she’s bright and beautiful; she’s full of dreams and has a burning desire to achieve them. She loves her mother, her boyfriend, her friends, and enjoys keeping fit.

But here's something unique about this young woman:

Madeline was born with Down’s syndrome, and she’s spent most of her life fighting the stereotypes associated with the condition.

Image: Iason Szenes

Madeline first decided to pursue modelling after attending a fashion show in 2014. From that moment, she and her mother Rosanne worked tirelessly to make her dream a reality.

Madeline’s career is proof that nothing’s impossible. She is presently the most talked about "unorthodox’’ model in the world. It seems she has inherited her determination from her mother:

Rosanne Stuart believes that when you really want something, the sky is your limit. “I think if you work hard for something in life, you can be successful,” she said.

Although Madeline’s first photo-shoot went viral with an avalanche of positive reactions, there was also a smattering of negative feedback. But this does not bother Rosanne.

“I don’t think it was a reflection on us, but of how people see the world or themselves. I didn’t bother telling Maddy or troubling her with other people’s problems.”

Madeline, who has graced the runways at New York Fashion Week for the past two years, is due to appear in London on 8 July 2016 in It will end in tears performed by the Culture Device Dance Project (CDDP).

CDDP is a cutting edge company for professional dancers with Down’s syndrome.

Madeline Stuart seven weeks old with her mother Image: Madeline Stuart

Madeline says: “My mum is my driving force and my role model.”

But for single mother Rosanne, bringing up her daughter has not been without its struggles. Madeline’s father left soon after she was born.

“Back then, there wasn’t a lot of social media and I felt isolated as I didn’t have much support,” Rosanne says.

“My work hours before Madeline started school, were after seven at night, when I put her to bed, until about three or four in the morning, including a couple of hours during the day when she napped.”

But despite the challenges of bringing up a special child, Rosanne wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I wouldn’t change anything about my life or my daughter. I am a very lucky woman to have someone in my life that has taught me so much and has loved me so unconditionally.”

Rosanne and Madeline have crafted their own world, built on care and acceptance.

Image: Cici Ziets

Rosanne says: “Support the people in your life. Sometimes, enabling their wishes may push you outside your comfort zone, but always remember that their life is just as important as yours.”

Beyond modelling, Madeline is a passionate dancer and athlete. When she was 13, she attended the Special Olympics as a member of the Australian cricket team.

She is also a performer and proud ambassador for Inside Outside Dance Ensemble, focusing mainly on hip hop dance. Madeline also regularly hits the gym for a mix of cardio and strength training.

“Maddy works very hard to maintain her weight. She goes to the gym six days a week,” explains Rosanne.

Despite the rigorous training, Madeline enjoys the challenge of her strict regime.

“I have my dance group so when I am in Brisbane, I do five classes a week with the group. So my exercise now consists of five to six hours a week of personal training at the gym and five to six hours of dance. I just love it,” says Madeline.

But alongside her busy schedule and blossoming career, the new face of GlossiGirl cosmetics still finds time for the simple pleasures of life. Madeline says:

Image: Madeline Stuart management

“I love to hang out with my friends and go bowling.” She also adores her boyfriend Robbie. “I am so happy. I love him very much.”

However, Madeline’s journey from struggle to the stars has not only made her successful and content with her own achievements.

It has also deepened her sensitivity and maturity: Her next stop is Uganda, where she will try to raise awareness for children with disabilities.

“I believe you get back what you offer people,’’ she said.

The inspiring teen believes you should always be proud of your achievements.

“It doesn’t matter if they are big or small. They are yours.”