Representation matters. For GLAMOUR’s September digital fashion issue we wanted to celebrate the changing face of fashion, the people who are ripping up the rule book and those who are showing that fashion is for everyone.
When 18-year-old Ellie Goldstein modelled for Gucci’s beauty campaign in July this year she made history as the first person with Down’s syndrome to model for a major brand. The post promoting the brand’s buildable Mascara L’Obscur on Gucci’s Instagram page – followed by 41 million people – became one of its most liked post ever, with a staggering 864,861 likes.
Now, just three months later, Ellie makes history once again as the first person with Down’s syndrome to appear on a GLAMOUR UK cover globally as we celebrate the changing face of fashion for our September fashion issue. Ellie spoke with GLAMOUR’s Josh Smith about her experience as a boundary-breaking model and to reveal the changes she wants to see in the fashion industry…
“I am totally amazed, shocked and proud to be on the front cover of GLAMOUR,” Ellie tells me with palpable excitement “I want to represent everyone with a disability and show myself off to the world.”
Ellie has been steadfast in this mission, and after she was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at birth in 2001, but growing up she never let her disability get in the way of achieving her dreams. Whilst attending a mainstream nursery, primary school and high school in Ilford, Essex she developed a love for dance and drama. Appearing in productions at the Royal Albert Hall and The Royal Opera House from the age of 5 and in multiple TV adverts from the age of 15 including Nike, Hotter Shoes and National Citizen Service, Ellie proved she could do anything. At 15, Ellie turned her attention to modelling, signing to Zebedee Management an agency that prides itself on representing, “models with disabilities and alternative appearances.”
Now Ellie hopes to use her platform and her growing fan base of 42,9000 Instagram followers to show other people with disabilities that there is no limit on what they can achieve…
How do you see yourself as changing the face of fashion?
Because I am the first model with Downs Syndrome to model for a high-end brand.
How did you get into modelling?
I approached Zebedee Management when they started up their agency, three years ago. My mum saw them on TV saying they were starting up a model agency for disabled people. I went along to a shoot and I was taken onboard and my first job was with Superdrug for their Christmas campaign in 2018. I then worked for Nike for the women’s World Cup and the National Citizen Service amongst others. I am thrilled to be inspiring so many and helping Zebedee lead the Inclusion Revolution.
Who are your favourite designers?
My favourite designers are Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. I love these brands because of the designs they use and colours of the clothes – they are different from the high street clothes!
How do you feel about retouching for perfection and filters on social media?
I’d rather be as natural as possible without retouching or filters and show my real beauty.
How do you feel about the term ‘disability’ and how do you want to break the stigma around that label? What stigmas do you still think persist around being a person living with Down’s syndrome?
I don’t mind people using the term disability. Some people are ignorant about Down’s syndrome but when they talk to me and see my personality, they change how they are towards me and hopefully others with disabilities. Everyone is different. Some of the initial reactions from people are that they ask my mum or dad questions about me like age and my mum says, “ask Ellie!”
You were diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at birth and you have never let it get in your way – how have you used this to empower you?
I know I have a big personality. My parents bought me up as Ellie and my big sister Amy was a big influence when I was growing up – we had fun. Amy influenced me by showing me fashion and make up and always making sure I look nice. She has always supported me in what I wanted to do as she is 8 years older than me. I love being around her and her friends.
What were your experiences like growing up? Did you feel accepted by society and those around you?
Everyone accepts me as Ellie. I had a fun childhood. I realized I loved dance and drama and being the centre of attention. I wanted to be famous when I grew up so I can be seen and when I get in front of the camera it’s where I’m happiest. I wanted to be in magazines and on TV.
Did you feel represented growing up and who were your role models?
People have to “get me” and see my personality not the disability. My role model was my sister, Amy, because she took me shopping and we did so many things together. She chose many of my outfits and still does! I have always been outgoing and my passion was to be a model, act and be famous.
What has your experience been like as a model with Down’s syndrome in the fashion industry? Have you come up against any negativity and if so, how have you learnt to deal with it?
I haven’t come across anything negative within the fashion industry. I get on with everyone and they all love me!
What has been a typical misconception you have come up against about yourself and your identity?
That people like me don’t have ambition or dreams and can’t achieve things – but we really can. Just follow your hope and dreams. I think the advice that has stuck with me is just be yourself!
Starring in the Gucci campaign was a watershed moment in your career – how important and special was that to you?
The Gucci campaign has changed my life. I have had many other amazing opportunities since, gone viral worldwide and I love every second of it. The Gucci campaign has opened up other shoots for me that I may not have got – like GLAMOUR.
How have you used fashion to tell and reflect your story?
I have used fashion to reflect my story in the way that shows my personality. I love fashion, makeup and looking amazing. My look is normally bright colours and pinks and purples they show my personality and I like to be fashionable.
What change do you want to bring to the fashion industry with your influence?
The change I want is for other brands to use models with disability hidden or not. Everyone deserves a chance and to achieve what they want.
What are your hopes for the future of fashion in terms of representation and diversity?
My hopes are that I continue to be a role model for other people, show others that they can get into this industry and that fashion brands use other models with disabilities. Diversity is very important. The industry seems to be getting better at using disabled models, but I think we are still a way off it being normal to see models like me.