Lighting is crucial in any photo shoot, but when Grace Strobel, 23, strikes a pose, the whole room lights up with pure happiness. Strobel’s professional career in modeling propelled her to magazine covers, campaigns, and 2,951 Instagram and 17,466 Facebook followers. But Grace is not your typical model — she has Down syndrome.
For a photographer like Trenna Travis, getting the perfect lighting is necessary for the perfect shot. When Grace hits the spotlight, her smile becomes more contagious. “She was the light. She’s the one who lights up the space,” Travis said in an interview with Mike Bush’s Making a Difference.
Before starting Strobel’s career in modeling, she had to endure bullying and isolation. When she was born, a genetic counselor told her parents how hard life would be for the model with down syndrome. Mundane activities and household tasks are going to be more difficult. Also, the doctor warned them about health risks tied to Grace’s condition.
“She’ll always be short, overweight, won’t be able to tie her shoes, read, and write,” the genetic counselor told Grace’s parents. “We haven’t even held our baby daughter yet,” From that point onward, the couple was more determined to give Grace a fighting chance. Despite Grace’s condition, the model with Down syndrome grew up healthy, kind, passionate, and filled with dreams.
“We didn’t look at it as a syndrome. We looked at it (as), OK, we’re going to help her become the best person she can.” Linda told NBC News.
In her teenage years, Grace suffered countless bullying incidents at school. These awful experiences inspired Grace to speak up and become an advocate. Grace also has a stutter, but it didn’t stop her from giving presentations to teach kids about her condition.
In her presentation, Grace lets her audience participate in an activity, showing what it is like to walk in her shoes. Her audience had to walk on balance trainers, use binoculars as they roam around the room, and wear gloves while buttoning their shirts. Teachers couldn’t help but shed a tear or two. The model with Down syndrome has spoken to 3,000 students since 2017.
“I wanted to share with students what it’s like to have struggles, and I wanted to show how we can change someone’s life just by being kind and giving respect, no matter who you are,” Grace told TODAY. On top of her public speaking engagements, Grace takes her modeling seriously. She runs two miles daily, works out at the gym, and has a healthy diet.
Her family posted Grace’s photos on Facebook. In just two weeks, the post went viral. She soon graced runways, editorial spreads, and fashion shows all over the country. “I like modeling because it makes me feel good about myself,” she said.
Grace’s photos eventually made its way to Ola Hawatmeh, a fashion designer and celebrity stylist. Hawatmeh gave Grace lessons on how to slay the runway and even designed a beautiful dress that fit the model with Down syndrome’s small frame. Grace went out in a long, white gown and the audience gave their loudest cheers and applause.
In the industries of models with perfect figures and eloquent public speakers without a stutter, Grace Strobel knows how to outshine them—all she needed to do was smile and let her kindness and beauty speak for itself.
She dreams of the day when she will have the chance to walk in New York Fashion Week. Hopefully, the more we share her story that dream will become a reality soon.
Watch the video below and discover how Grace Strobel lives her life to the fullest while inspiring respect and kindness: