This year, a little boy named Ryan showed up in Target circulars. While many people tend to toss these and go, it created a buzz. Ryan is a child who happens to have an extra chromosome. He is a child, first, and foremost, and adorable as all get out. Ryan has Down Syndrome.
This year, a Spanish fashion designer made a little girl, the spectacularly adorable Miss Valentina Guerrero, its cover model for swimsuits in her 2013 summer campaign. (This kid is seriously cute.)
Already, many bloggers have entered in their opinions on "ableism" and "disability", and on whether the designer, Delores Cortes is committing the faux pas of "Look at me! I'm doing something big!" and whether the donations to The Down Syndrome Association of Miami are done with open heart and genuinely wanting to support these awesome and marvelous people... or whether it's a self-serving act to drum up business. This will always, sadly be one of the first things that will be said. Also, one of our fine British friends on that paragon of news reporting, the Daily Mail, already added their two pence, while not even, apparently looking at Valentina, a priceless, gorgeous baby with the sweetest, tubby little cheeks I've seen, as a person, and added in their written sneer, "Yes... she looks...special". (Can't help ya, dude. I look at her and I die of cuteness.)
Is she adorable and utterly compliant to Western norms of beauty? Yes. Do you take an involuntary second look? Maybe. I see a child first, here, pretty as can be. With an open, unabashed smile and a twinkle in her hazel-brown eyes.
Did Dolores Cortes do a good thing? Yes. Will children benefit? Yes. Will eyes and minds be opened? We can hope.
This is not the first model with down syndrome in a major campaign. Valentina has the honor of being the first to be the face of the campaign and not just another kid to pick out from the crowd. It also looks like Ms. Cortes let her simply be a baby, and that's great.