A 24-year-old Missouri woman has become the first American model with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line, according to KTVI ABC8.
Grace Strobel of Chesterfield, Mo., is representing the worldwide brand Obagi, that promotes “skinclusion” ” – meaning it supports the International Cultural Diversity Organization and Project Implicit, highlighting the need to appreciate cultural diversity and recognize unconscious bias.
Linda Strobel (Grace’s mother) wrote to Jaime Castle, the president of Obagi. She expressed to Castle that “People with disabilities are not represented. Would you consider Grace as one of your models?” Linda said “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.”
The letter received a positive response from Castle. “When [Castle] got the letter, she was ecstatic. She walked down the hall and told everybody, ‘We want this girl,’” Linda said.
The idea to model came to Grace while she was researching how to be an advocate for people with disabilities, but wanted to do so in a different fashion — something she calls the Grace Effect. “When I was researching for Grace Effect, I saw another girl with Down syndrome and she was a model, so I asked my mom if I could be a model, and she said, ‘I don’t see why not,’” Grace said.
Grace has been modeling now for two years, first working for Alivia. “They take the creative expressions from people with disabilities, and in this case, their first three capsules were taken from people with autism and their art designs. They took their art designs and put them into the design for the clothing,” Linda said.
During her first two years as a model, Grace Strobel has walked the runway in St. Louis, Atlantic City, N.J., and virtually in Runway of Dreams, part of New York Fashion Week. And people from all over the world watched her model Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive at the Muny outdoor theater in St. Louis.
She was even asked to be a part of a webinar to teach the LVMH group about people with disabilities. The webinar spoke about inclusion, diversity, employment and marketing to and for individuals with varying abilities.
The Grace Effect began in 2017, after a run-in with a bully. Grace Strobel and her mother created a 45-minute presentation to help people better understand people with disabilities. “It teaches kids about struggles, kindness, about respect, one’s own value and we put role-playing in it, we put videos in it. It was very interactive. We just wanted to teach the kids what it’s like to be a day in the life of someone like Grace,” Linda said.
The Grace Effect also covers low tone, fine motor skills, balance and vision. Participants do exercises that simulate how someone with Down syndrome experiences these skills.
Grace Strobel’s dad, Jeff Strobel, appreciates all of the kindness people have shown his daughter and family. “We get people that are so interested and see what Grace is trying to do that they want to help make a difference as well,” he said. “We’ve had so many outside people step in to say ‘You guys are doing it right. How can I help you?’”