Meet Asher. He’s 16 months old, likes playing with musical toys and loves posing for the camera – and he’s about to embark on an exciting modelling opportunity which was almost denied to him.
Asher’s also got Down’s Syndrome and his mum Meagan Nash, 27, is a passionate volunteer for the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta.
She’s keen to raise awareness of the issues children with disabilities face in terms of being left out of everyday advertising campaigns, and highlight how brands are potentially missing out on a sizeable customer base by doing this.
When she saw local children’s fashion retailer OshKosh were looking for a new face for their spring and summer campaign, she decided to submit some delightful shots of Asher.
Local photographer Crystal Barbee offered to shoot them for free as it was an issue close to her heart – she has a brother-in-law with Down’s Syndrome, Meagan explained. And it’s a gesture she hasn’t taken lightly.
“Still today I cannot get over that this type of kindness exists,” she said.
However the modelling agency looking for kids to appear in the ads initially refused to even submit the shots because “the criteria didn’t specify they were looking for a baby with special needs”.
Meagan was left feeling hurt and pretty puzzled: “I was very confused because he should get a chance to be submitted just like any other baby.”
Once she established from the agency that OshKosh hadn’t actually specified either way what they were looking for in terms of a model, the agency agreed there was no reason not to submit Asher and did so.
But it was this experience, as well as being introduced to the non-profit organisation Changing The Face Of Beauty, that got her thinking.
What other agencies or brands might there be out there that don’t realise certain children aren’t being submitted when they should be?
She decided to share her pics on Facebook, which caught the attention of popular page Kids With Down Syndrome – and it completely blew up from there, with hundreds of thousands of likes, shares and positive comments flooding in.
Meagan admits it really wasn’t her intention to petition OshKosh to get them to hire Asher, saying that even if they decided against using him “at least I know I did everything I could to try make a change for the better for people with disabilities”.
But after the pics went viral, it wasn’t long until OshKosh got in touch.
The family met with OshKosh last month and the meeting went so well, the brand got them to come back in so that Asher could shoot the holiday ads as well.
Meagan said she was left feeling very emotional after seeing Asher’s smiling face on the ads, which she put down to a mix of pride and accomplishment.
She added: “My hope is that people will become even more accepting of people with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.
“I also hope that after seeing this, they will want to spread awareness. My hope for the companies is that even more brands like OshKosh start using little models like my Asher.”