Little Seb White is a star in the making. The 4-year-old has been chosen to feature as a model in Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) Christmas in-store catalogue, and his cheeky smile will soon be seen by hundreds of thousands of shoppers.
Indeed, Seb, who has Down’s syndrome, is already becoming a bit of a household name. The story about M&S choosing him as a model has taken off in the past few days, with Seb and his mother, Caroline, being featured on the front cover of The Times, as well as being interviewed by BBC Breakfast, Sky News and Radio 4, among others. There has even been international interest in the story.
It’s great that this has caught the public’s imagination. Part of the interest was in how M&S responded to Caroline’s initial approach to them, which was made on the company’s Facebook page, after she became frustrated at the lack of diversity in advertising.
While M&S is not the first retailer to use models with Down’s syndrome – for example, children’s clothing retailers JoJo Maman Bebe and Frugi have already done so – it is the biggest that I have heard about.
That such a major high street name has done this is also significant because it will be seen by people across the UK. It may also encourage other retailers to follow suit and use models with Down’s syndrome – or, indeed, other learning disabilities.
But perhaps most significantly, it will help to break down stigma about people with Down’s syndrome. There are still misconceptions out there about the condition and, sadly, prejudice is still not uncommon.
But stories like this will help to address that. As Caroline said when interviewed on BBC Breakfast, they lead a normal family life, and she hopes that the campaign will help to break down outdated stereotypes and ensure that people with learning disabilities will be treated the same as anyone else.
We have seen how the Paralympics has helped to changed people’s attitudes towards people with disabilities, and, even if it’s only in a small way, this should do the same for people with learning disabilities.
Hopefully in years to come, something like this won’t be a major news story, because models with Down’s syndrome – and other disabilities – will be a regular part of retailers’ advertising campaigns. And, why not?