19-year-old girl becomes first model with Down Syndrome to win international beauty pageant
Nineteen year-old teenager Kate Grant with Down Syndrome became the first model to win an international beauty pageant
Nineteen-year-old Kate Grant has become the first model with Down Syndrome to win an international beauty pageant. Grant was reportedly overwhelmed and in shock when she was chosen out of 40 other candidates to become the ultimate beauty of the world.
The pageant takes place with the intention of celebrating diversity and people who are "beautiful inside and out". It also supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation which is a charity that makes dreams come true for poorly children. Before the two-day-long event, Kate had experimented with modeling and had decided to enter the competition just for fun and for the experience.
As reported by Mirror, Kate spoke about how it was a massive surprise when she heard she had won. "I was in shock. My family were all in the audience, crying, and cheering. My dream has come true. And that dream is to get a chance to inspire young people who have Down’s syndrome and other special needs to believe in themselves," she revealed. The pageant's director Taylor-Rae Hamilton invited Kate to enter as the representative for her native Northen Ireland.
Taylor-Rae was amongst the many people who were very touched by a message that Kate's mother Deirdre had posted on Facebook where she asked for support in her attempts to become a successful model. Kate even traveled around 25 miles from her hometown in Cookstown, Co Tyrone to attend the competition in Portadown. Many other candidates had also flown down from across the globe to represent their nations.
The pageant has around three categories, one for kids, one for teens, and one for people over the age of 20-years-old. It is an all-inclusive competition and does not discriminate based on weight, height or marital status. The contest started off with an interview and Kate's mother was not allowed into the room with her but she could hear that Kate was making the judges laugh.
Deirdre shared, "I knew she’d charm them but what made me most proud was how Kate looked after other candidates, encouraging and supporting them". On that same evening, all the candidates were invited to mix and mingle at a "get to you know you" party which had a tropical beach theme. On the second day of the contest, for the casual round, Kate sported jeans and a t-shirt.
For the second round which was titled 'Time to Shine' Kate said, "meant hair curled, make-up applied and a sparkling, turquoise sequined dress, channeling my inner Little Mermaid". For the formal round, Kate sported a black and white cocktail dress with a side split and said, "I sashayed down the catwalk giving it all my sass. I just wanted to have fun and truly expected someone else’s name to be called as the winner".
"Now I’ll be attending photo shoots throughout the year and will be a judge and mentor at next year’s final. Most importantly I’ll be involved in an appeal where we’ll deliver hundreds of toys to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. I want to give poor children a moment of sunshine," she continued. Kate's journey so far has been far from easy and when she was born, her parents Deirdre and John were warned by doctors to prepare for the worst.
"After two sons, John and I were thrilled to be expecting a girl. When Kate was born it was confirmed she had Down’s syndrome within hours. he doctor painted a bleak future. He said she wouldn’t learn to read, her speech would be limited and she’d never hold full conversations. I thought of him as she made her acceptance speech up on the stage at the pageant, describing her hopes for an inclusive society, one where people like her are treated as equals," Deirdre recalled.
The fact that she had Down Syndrome did not deter her parents from letting her fulfill her dreams. "When she announced at 13 she wanted to be a model we didn’t discredit the idea just because she had Down’s syndrome". Kate had a passion for make-up, clothes, and fashion but struggled to land any gigs. When Deirdre would email agencies with her pictures, she was told that there was no work.
"I knew it was because she had Down’s syndrome. Kate was so disappointed. The emails left her crushed," Deirdre admitted. She decided to take to social media to ask whether it was unreasonable for her daughter to dream of being a model and the post garnered a lot of support and encouragement leaving her stunned.
"Kate said it was her dream come true to enter the pageant. Now she could help make dreams come true for other kids," she added.
Kate shared, "I want the next generation who have any special needs to know the true meaning of beauty is who you are, not what you look like. Kindness, compassion and inner sparkle, that’s the ultimate beauty. If the judges saw that in me then I’m happy".
The judges from the contest also spoke out and shared, "Kate was the spirit and soul of The Ultimate Beauty and stood for everything it is about – inner and outer beauty. She’s such a star, she’s unbelievable and we’re so proud to have her as our teen winner".