A 24-year-old woman from Chesterfield, Missouri, is breaking barriers in the modeling industry.
After a traumatic bullying experience in 2017, Grace Strobel, who was born with Down syndrome, decided to turn her pain into purpose.
With the help of her mother, she launched #TheGraceEffect, an initiative to raise awareness about people living with Down syndrome. The project has allowed Strobel to speak to more than 3,000 students at various schools, but it was only the first part of her mission to change perceptions of people with disabilities.
In August, Strobel partnered with Alivia, a fashion brand that is outspoken about supporting disability advocacy groups, and appeared in photos on the brand’s website.
Now, she has become the first American model with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line.
Strobel has partnered with Obagi for the brand’s “SKINCLUSION” initiative.
As an ambassador for the campaign, Strobel will serve as the face of Obagi’s new kinetin and exfoliating cleansing gel.
Strobel’s mother, Linda Strobel, said she wrote a letter to the president of the company to ask if the brand would be interested in working with her daughter.
“People with disabilities are not represented, and so I wrote a letter to the president, Jaime Castle, and I said, ‘Would you consider Grace as one of your models? We have this huge population of people with disabilities that are often very invisible and they want to be seen. They want to be heard. They want to be represented as part of the population,’” Linda Strobel told KTVI.
The partnership comes during Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
“With elegance, humor, ambition and determination, Grace is working to change society’s view of people with disabilities. She believes that when faced with trials and adversity we learn to have courage and to be strong. We welcome and encourage Grace to use SKINCLUSION as a platform to amplify her message, to advocate for people with Down syndrome, and to challenge our biases to become more inclusive," Castle wrote in a news release.
“I am very proud that I have Down syndrome and that I could turn pain into purpose and help others to believe in themselves,” Strobel said. “I think sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand. We are consumers, our lives have meaning and we want to be represented. Obagi’s SKINCLUSION initiative is helping to show beauty in our differences and to not be afraid of those differences. Working with Obagi has been a dream come true because it gives me a voice. Through exposure, we can create change and break down barriers, fears and create understanding. It’s about making people with disabilities feel valued and included.”
In a January blog post, Grace Strobel wrote, “I like to show that people with disabilities have gifts, talents, capabilities, hopes and dreams like anyone else."
After presenting in front of thousands of people, being signed by three different modeling agencies, appearing on “Good Morning America,” walking in a virtual fashion show for Tommy Hilfiger and partnering with multiple brands, it’s safe to say Grace Strobel has made her mark. And she’s just getting started.
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