Model Madeline Stuart Is Challenging Bridal Beauty Norms in Gorgeous New Photo Series
Madeline Stuart isn't getting married quite yet, but that isn't stopping her from indulging in her bridal fantasies.
The 18-year-old model, who has Down syndrome, is featured in a bridal-themed photo series for Rixey-Manor, a bed and breakfast and event space in Rixeyville, Virginia.
Stuart, who previously walked during New York Fashion Week in fall 2015, had been on board immediately. But her mother, not so much.
"I was a little concerned that it would be run and people would pretend Maddy was getting married in real life to sell papers," Roseanne Stuart told Mic.
She then began to consider the impact that the photos could have at destigmatizing the idea of people with disabilities falling in love, having relationships or getting married.
"I think it's quite funny that people don't really get it," she said. "How is it someone with a disability can love their parents or siblings so intensely just like everyone else but for some reason that can't also have feelings to a boyfriend or husband? These are very basic needs and most humans have them, disability or not."
After a phone call with Rixey-Manor's owner, Isadora Martin-Dye, Stuart was convinced, realizing that this was not just a promotional effort for the space, but an opportunity to change people's perceptions of how a bride should look on her wedding day.
"Honestly, my biggest motivation was to find someone who would inspire other brides, not intimidate them," Martin-Dye told Mic. "The wedding industry is designed to induce lust and envy — big over-the-top dresses, glittering chandeliers, fairy tale princess — and those things are great, but they are not everything to everyone. Couples shouldn't feel that they have to be a model or incredibly rich to have a blog/Pinterest-worthy wedding."
The shoot lasted the entire day; the only one not exhausted by the end was Madeline, who wanted to keep going.
"It takes a lot of work — it's like putting on a mini-wedding — but there was one moment where Madeline wanted show off her last look like a real bride," Martin-Dye said. "She walked around the door and towards us with this amazing peaceful smile. She completely embodied the part."
Though the photo shoot was intended as a promotional vehicle for the venue, the result is something far more impactful: a reminder that beauty doesn't have to look one certain way.
"Madeline loves me so intensely so why shouldn't she one day love her partner that intensely and want to get married?" Roseanne Stuart said. "I think it would be very normal. We want the rest of the world to understand that also. How else will we continue to break down barriers?"