Mommyish Exclusive: Mother Of Down Syndrome Model Tells Us How It All Began

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down syndrome modelWe’re kind of obsessed with Valentina Guerrero, the 10-month-old Miami girl who stars in swimwear designer Dolores Cortés‘ USA catalg and 2013 DC Kids ad campaign. That’s because her smile could melt hearts and, well, we pretty much want to eat her up. I know, I know – I sound like a doting grandmother. But what can I say? She’s a cutie.

Anyway, yesterday we wrote about how Valentina’s very first modeling gig is breaking boundaries. That’s because the little girl has Down Syndrome, and she’s the first ever child with Down Syndrome to be the main model of a campaign from a renown fashion designer. Granted, a boy with Down Syndrome named Ryan has appeared in ads for Target and Nordstrom, but he was just one of many kids featured. Valentina, on the other hand, is the face of DC Kids, which is a pretty big deal (and, as we mentioned yesterday, it’s about time!).

We were curious to know how this campaign came to be, and so we reached out to Valentina’s mom, TV host and producer Cecilia Elizalde. Here’s what she had to say.

Mommyish: How’d you decide to get your daughter into the world of modeling?
Cecilia Elizalde: It all happened very naturally. I was trying to figure out a way to change the perception of children with Down Syndrome when a Dolores Cortés representative, one of the U.S. executives, saw Valentina on Facebook. She was an old friend of my mom’s, and she said, ‘Your baby’s so cute!’ I responded in a joking manner, ‘Yeah, you should put her in your catalog.’ She told me she was going to be in Miami for a couple of days, so we ended up getting together (and she and my mom reconnected after 30 years). She met Valentina and fell in love with her. She said, ‘She needs to be face of the campaign!’

Mommyish: Not your typical casting call…

CE: Absolutely. She had already started to look at models to include in the new collections, but this was very out of the ordinary.

Mommyish: How did you feel when you first heard – officially – that Dolores Cortés chose Valentina to be the face of DC kids?
CE: It was amazing! Even though I knew I wanted to deliver this message about kids with Down Syndrome and inclusion, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to do so than through the fashion industry. We guide ourselves through our appearances and beauty. So this was a perfect way for us to start telling our story, catch people’s attention and spread our message. We want to let people know that these children all deserve the same opportunities, they’re all beautiful.

Mommyish: What type of feedback have you received so far?
CE: With every news story that becomes big you have some positive and some negative feedback. Fortunately, less than one percent have been negative comments. The other 99 percent has been incredible! We’ve been talking to people all over the world about their experiences with Down Syndrome. It’s great that people are talking about it and getting informed. The reality is that children with Down Syndrome can do anything they set their mind to, they can have a normal life. That’s what’s so important to us – that people talk to us about it.

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