Posted on: September 9, 2020 at 3:34 pm
Last updated: October 14, 2020 at 5:54 pm

An adorable toddler with Down syndrome has become a model and the face of a children’s clothing brand campaign.  

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Two-year-old Eleanor Manton from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was “discovered” through her family’s Instagram account. When JoJo Maman Bébé, a U.K. mother and baby brand, contacted Eleanor’s mom, Helen Manton, she recalled “screaming and jumping for joy”. The retailer wanted her baby for their autumn/winter 2020 campaign. [1] 

The Cutest Baby Model with Down Syndrome 

To comply with quarantine restrictions, they sent the Manton’s the clothing and shoes to photograph in their own home. Helen took the photos herself on her iPhone. Eleanor’s father, Craig Manton, played another vital role in the shoot: “the chief smile coordinator”. In the pictures in the outdoor photo shoot, the toddler wears a huge smile along with the company’s adorable red sweater, leggings, and cute little booties. [2] 

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“When I saw those campaign images I don’t think the phrase ‘bursting with pride’ cuts it,” Helen explained. “Just seeing her little beaming face, she’s just a ray of light, was incredible, it makes me really, really proud.” 

Eleanor has made a lot of progress during the lockdown, which her mother said was aided by having so much interaction with her home-stuck parents. In May, her mother posted a video of Eleanor walking on her own for the first time.  

“That’s the reason why Eleanor is progressing so much, she has interaction with us both all the time,” she said. [3] 

Children with Down’s Syndrome 

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition in the United States. About 6,000 infants are born with Down’s syndrome in the U.S. every year. Accordingly, this syndrome is found in about 1 in every 700 babies. [4] 

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Babies with Down syndrome usually have telling characteristics of flat facial features, eyes that slant upward, poor muscle tone, and small heads and ears. Infants can be born a typical size, but they tend to develop more slowly than kids without this condition.  

Many people with this syndrome are often accompanied by other health problems, like hearing loss, hearing defects, obstructive sleep apnea, eye disease, and ear infections. They may also suffer from mild to moderate developmental disabilities. 

Despite all of these potential difficulties, people with Down syndrome can live healthy and fulfilling lives. Recent medical and societal advances can provide more opportunities to help them overcome the challenges of their condition. [5] 

Representing People with Disabilities in Ads and Media 

“Hopefully more companies are going to be more inclusive,” Mrs. Manton said. Although the fashion industry has made some strides, there are very few models with disabilities. Representation of kids with disabilities in media can help them be included in their personal lives. 

However, there seems to be a cultural perception that physical disabilities can’t encompass the power and magnetism needed in advertisements. Therefore, companies avoid including such people, although doing so can be beneficial to able-bodied people and those with disabilities. [4]  

The portrayal of people with disabilities in films and media contributes greatly to how viewers perceive them in reality. That’s why portrayals with characters that are “better off dead,” “pathetic,” “a burden to society,” and “unable to lead a good life,” can do more harm than good. Having a wide array of disabled characters can break stereotypes and display the very different lives these people can have. [5] 

Another form of negative portrayal is when physically disabled people are used for “inspiration porn”. This is when disabilities are used to motivate able-bodied individuals through inaccurate and problematic portrayals. These pity-hero traps can stigmatize these people and create the expectations that they should be inspiring in real life as well. [6]  

“If children like Eleanor are seen in the fashion industry, it’s going to keep raising awareness… and when people see children like Eleanor it’s not a shock to them,” Helen said. 

It’s heart-warming that Eleanor recognize can herself in the pictures and she would say “that’s me”. 

“I just want to raise awareness, that she is just like any other little girl and that having a child with Down’s syndrome is a positive thing, not a negative,” she added. 

Keep Reading: Dentistry Student Shares Touching Story of Being Raised by Father with Down Syndrome

[1] “Girl With Down Syndrome Models New JoJo Maman Bébé Clothing Campaign.” Maria Lianos-Carbone. The Mighty. August 27, 2020 

[2] “Girl, 2, with Down syndrome stars in fashion campaign  Fox News.

[3] “Girl, two, with Down’s syndrome models for JoJo Maman Bébé.” BBC. August 18, 2020 

[4] “Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome.” CDC

[5] “What is Down syndrome?” Karen Gill, M.D. Healthline. October 29, 2019 

[6] Dennis J. Ganahl & Mark Arbuckle. Southern Illinois University. “The Exclusion of Persons with Physical Disabilities from Prime Time Television Advertising: A Two Year Quantitative Analysis.” Disability Studies Quarterly. Spring 2001 

[7] “Victims and Victors: Representation of Physical Disability on the Silver Screen.” Rhonda S. Black. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities.  March 2007 

[8] “Not an Inspiration Just for Existing: How Advertising Uses Physical Disabilities as Inspiration: A Categorization and Model.” Summer Shelton. University of Florida. Research Gate.  

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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.