A 24-year-old woman with Down syndrome is finding her place in the world and is inspiring people like her to do the same.
Last month, Grace Strobel was introduced as the newest ambassador of the brand Obagi, making her the first American model with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line.
The Down Syndrome advocate, role model, and speaker is the face of the freshly-released Obagi Clinical Kinetin + Exfoliating Cleansing Gel.
Grace’s selection is part of Obagi’s SKINCLUSION initiative, which is “designed to elevate the global dialogue about diversity and how we can all make conscious choices to see the beauty in all of our differences.”
Making the project even more significant is its timing. The news of Grace’s ambassadorship came out in October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
“This partnership means the world to me and I am so excited to be a SKINCLUSION Ambassador because I love what Obagi stands for. Diversity, Inclusion and Beauty,” Grace said.
Knowing there was a lack of representation of people with disabilities, Grace’s mom, Linda, wrote a letter to the president of Obagi, Jaime Castle, and asked if she would consider Grace to be one of their models.
“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,” she said.
Grace has been modeling for two years, with Alivia being the first brand that she has worked with. So far, she’s done two shoots for them.
Since the beginning, her family has been fully supportive of her modeling career. Her sister Laine, 22, even brags about her in school.
“When the first set of pictures came out I would walk around my sorority and everybody at school and be like this is my sister, look at my sister,” she said.
Grace has come a long way in her modeling career. She has walked the runway in St. Louis, Atlantic City, and virtually in Runway of Dreams, which is a part of New York Fashion Week. She has also modeled for Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive walking the runway at the Muny.
Outside modeling, Grace has participated in a webinar to educate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton about people with disabilities. The topics covered employment, diversity, inclusion, and marketing for individuals with varying abilities.
This isn’t the first time Grace has discussed the subject of inclusion with an audience.
In 2017, she suffered a traumatic bullying incident. But instead of letting the painful encounter bring her down, she turned it into an opportunity to enlighten others.
With her mom’s help, she launched the “Grace Effect,” a presentation tackling the life and general experiences of people with Down syndrome. It aims to help kids better understand people with disabilities by teaching them about struggles, kindness, respect, and one’s own value.
The project took off and has allowed Grace to speak to over 3,000 students in different schools.
Grace’s dad, Jeff, is grateful for the kindness people have shown his daughter and their entire 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. “Everything that Grace and Linda have been able to achieve, not only did they build on what came from parents and families before us but then we’ve had so many outside people step in to say, you guys are doing it right, how can I help you?”
Grace’s journey is truly inspiring. Also, it’s nice to see brands doing their part in promoting inclusion. Kudos to them!