Everyone is Unique. Really?

Blowing the cover on acceptance and expectations.

Carmen Hinkey | September 2015

Next month brings us to National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The industry news is full of inspirational stories of how children and adults with Down syndrome have enriched the lives of their families, peer groups, communities, and a wider acceptance of those with a third copy of the twenty-first chromosome.

The entertainment and fashion industries have done a great deal to further this effort.  In 2005 Rosie O’Donnell played Beth in Riding the Bus with my Sister. Ten years later, however, Chris Dowling hired David DeSanctis in Where Hope Grows, a debut for  a young man with Down syndrome playing the role of a young man with Down syndrome. An 18 year-old model in Australia who has Down syndrome has garnered two clothing campaigns, earning a walk at the New York Fashion Week, arguably the ultimate attainment for a young woman of the 21st century.

In this cover drawing from the children’s book, The Prince Who Was Just Himself, a young boy with Down syndrome holds a daisy in his hands. Stop. Have we reached the danger zone where we lose sight of the real accomplishments we all wish to be remembered for? Has the so-often toxic and fake world of fashion and entertainment blinded us to the real gifts of curiosity, compassion and love? Aren’t the best gifts of that 21st chromosome the ability to step off the runway and be real? Too many of us look too often toward fashion and entertainment for our daily hit of “if only I could be more beautiful/witty/sexy/funny.” Instead, we need to turn toward the real people, letting them set our standard for natural, joyous, un-modeled living, not dragging them into our posturing habits, our “dressing to impress.” 

Luckily, a family in Germany, whose youngest son was born with Down syndrome, has written a story. Technically a children’s story, it carries an important message for us adults: The youngest prince, who happens to have Down syndrome, disarms an enemy of the kingdom with what is (to him) a perfectly natural impulse of compassion and curiosity. It’s the one thing the fierce attacker wasn’t expecting. It is still the best way to disarm an opponent. Why haven’t we figured that out yet? Prince Noah has beaten us to the draw.    

Find out more about the book "The Prince Who Was Just Himself"

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