A talent agency in the U.K., Zebedee Management, is hiring models with disabilities to encourage body positivity and inspire people from all walks of life.
The agency has been sharing photos of their models and what captured people’s eyes the most are the photos of Riley, a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome. His huge, beautiful smile quickly melted hearts as he modeled for different brands such a Mothercare.
Riley’s parents were broken-hearted when their son was diagnosed with Down syndrome. They were afraid of how other people would treat Riley and how he would handle being teased or bullied by other kids. “After we were told he had Down’s syndrome I cried, not for the case that I would love him any less but just knowing how cruel the world can be. That was the first thing that went through my mind,” said Riley’s father, Stuart.
To their surprise, none of their fears rang true. People had been nice to Riley and a lot of them were mesmerized by his lovely smile.
“We have called him ‘Smiley Riley’ from a young age, because he makes people really happy, and seeing his smile gives people a pick-me-up on a bad day,” Stuart said.
When someone suggested that Riley can be a great model, the 5-year-old boy joined the talent agency, Zebedee Management and quickly gained popularity. He became the face of Jools Oliver Litter Bird and other brands.
With a spellbinding smile that can cheer anyone up, Riley proved that he’s meant to be in front of the camera. This also made his classmates adore him more.
“In the photoshoots, they want the children to act naturally and he’s a very happy little boy, so it’s brilliant,” Stuart stated. “He enjoys everything he does and does it all with a smile, whenever people see him, they don’t see his disability just him smiling.”
Behind Riley’s cheerful personality and magnificent smile were various challenges which he and his parents had to go through. In the beginning, Riley struggled to feed and found it difficult to communicate with other people. He also struggled to walk due to muscle weakness. “When he walks a mile it’s like walking two for anyone else, but his determination to keep going is the one thing we constantly see,” Stuart recounted.
Nevertheless, his parents were very patient with him. “We wanted to understand what he needed if he would be non-verbal for a longer time and to be able to help him when he cried. Now he has such a repertoire of signs it’s unbelievable, it’s to the point where other children are learning it from him,” Stuart said.
Stuart and his wife are very happy with Riley’s progress as well as his success with his talent agency. Stuart said, “He can do everything anyone else can, it just takes him a little longer and we have enjoyed that more. He has needed us more, so if anything, it’s meant we could give him extra love. We were so delighted to have him, our little boy to love and bring up.”
It’s so inspiring to witness stories like Riley’s. He was once physically weak but now, he has found his traction which will surely lead him to a greater, more fulfilling life.