A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from my good friend Teresa Hazen, who owns a photo studio, asking if she could include my little boy, Beckham, in their annual photo contest.
Reluctantly, I agreed. I didn’t want to become one of those moms who enter their babies into every contest and baby pageant there is in hopes of winning a few bucks or free ice cream. After all, doesn’t every mom — and rightly so! — think they have the cutest kid on earth?
Plus, there is the underlying dread that perhaps you’ll discover your child has the face “only a mother could love.”
Happily, others seemed to share in my adoration for my little boy Becks, and he was voted cutest in his category. (I quickly sent out checks to all my family members who drove up to Kaysville and voted a hundred times each.)
I began to think about my new little star's potential. Is he going to live up to his namesake, David Beckham, and become a handsome hunk posing in nothing but his underwear (or diaper)?
On second thought I hope not!
While my son’s modeling days may be a one-and-done kind of thing, I discovered a new little fashion model whose beautiful face and spirit has won over Spanish designer Dolores Cortes and is the new face of DC Kids.
Her name is Valentina Guerrero, and she has Down syndrome.
“Her eyes and her smile touched my heart,” scout Monica Hillman told People magazine.
Valentina made her debut at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2013 on July 20. Carried out at the end by Cortes, “the crowd went nuts!” for the 10-month-old, her mother said.
"We’re definitely seeing a rise (in models with special needs),” says agent Fabiola Osorio from agency FFT.
Target and Nordstrom have also featured models with Down syndrome, carefully placing them so as not to draw special attention, but to make them seem like any other happy child.
Says the mother of one such model, 6-year-old Ryan, on the blog Noah’s Dad:
“The whole process of modeling is an extreme confidence booster for him. We are honored that Ryan is making the Down syndrome community proud. He is a beautiful boy inside and out. He makes us better parents, and a better family.”
I’ll never forget the first time I held my cousin’s little girl, Courtney, who has Down syndrome. They came to see me on tour and surprised me backstage. My cousin’s wife, Marcy, had just had little Courtney — she couldn’t have been more than 8 weeks old.
As soon as she was safely placed in my arms, I felt this amazing warm, peaceful feeling wash over me. I got a little emotional — something that completely took me by surprise. I could not believe how much love I felt coming from and to that precious girl.
I am so happy these sweet children are being featured in ads as the beautiful children they are. I hope to see many more pictures of kids like Ryan and Valentina in the fashion ads to come.
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.