The Face that Launched a Thousand Likes

Stillwater’s Izzy Bradley opens the door for models with Down syndrome.
Izzy Bradley’s smile brightens the room while playing dress-up in her Stillwater home.

Traditionally when most people think of female models, they conjure up the image of a tall, beautiful woman who has flawless, symmetric features. Today, that ideal is slowly evolving to better reflect the wide range of beauty that exists within our society.

Izzy Bradley of Stillwater is one such model. At age 2, Izzy also has an exceptional quality that most models don’t have—she was born with Down syndrome.

Last December, Izzy was featured in a print advertisement for Target Corp. that has garnered national and local media attention, and received more than half a million likes on Facebook.

For Izzy’s mother, Heather Bradley, interest in raising awareness for Down syndrome started with her daughter, but now reaches far beyond her own family. Bradley is the president of the national Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network (DSDN). The nonprofit organization hosts an online resource for new and expecting parents of children with Down syndrome.

“[The site] is a way for parents to have conversations anywhere, anytime,” Bradley says. She says it also offers families a “built-in network of people who are meeting the same life changes at the same time, [which] is a pretty incredible thing.”

While Bradley knows conversations about Down syndrome are important among families who have diagnosed children, she believes the message needs to reach a wider audience. She partners with the Changing the Face of Beauty campaign in challenging other national retailers to make people like her exceptional daughter much less of an exception. The campaign prompts families to affect changes in advertising via social media. Hundreds of photos of children with Down syndrome have been shared with the hashtags #ImReady, calling for more integrated media, and #15in2015, which asks for 15 retailers to accept the challenge to feature children with disabilities. Currently, more than 37 national retailers who have committed to the campaign. In addition to Target, other examples of national advertising include McDonald’s, which aired a 2015 Super Bowl ad that featured a young girl with Down syndrome.

While the visibility of children with Down syndrome in the media can impact the wider cultural beliefs and feelings about the diagnosis, the most powerful implications of increased awareness directly impact the families of diagnosed children.

“It’s so important for new mothers to see that children like their own are visible and seen,” Bradley says.

Changing the Face of Beauty is a campaign that looks fearlessly into the future and imagines a world in which the media landscape truly and lovingly reflects images of ourselves back to us. Certainly, there will come a time when we will look back and remember how it all started—with the smile of an adorable young model from Stillwater and her proud family.