Right now, all eyes are on Grace Strobel, the 23-year-old model with Down syndrome who’s luminous lookbook on social media drew likes from more than 216K people within a few weeks. Her megawatt smile and humble message about kindness and inclusion caught the attention of Lady Gaga’s Channel Kindness and Born This Way Foundation, Obagi skincare brand and the progressive clothing line Alivia, which landed Grace as a face for the label’s spring 2020 collection.
Part angel, part entrepreneur and all light, Grace meets the world with an open heart, hoping to melt people’s internal and external barriers towards those who are different. In high school, she worked in the lunchroom as a helper. One day, several classmates set her up for a joke, asking her to open their fruit cups, knowing her Down syndrome affected her dexterity. Laughing at her for struggling, those kids didn’t know they were igniting the true grace that lives inside her. Despite the hurt they caused, “[My mother] told me sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand,” Grace wrote on her blog for Channel Kindness. “Maybe I could help them understand. I wanted to make a difference. I made a decision to start working toward changing perceptions of people with disabilities.”
Grace created #TheGraceEffect, a presentation she co-designed for school children to build compassion and understanding around what it’s like to live with Down syndrome. Today, she’s reached more than 3,000 students with her positive message about building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
“I love getting the chance to change a new generation of minds and hearts and encourage others to seek kindness, respect and to value others,” she wrote. “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
I know that I can be strong and be a champion of hope and resiliency.
“I was once wounded by being made fun of, and now it feels incredible to turn hurt into purpose. I love that I get a chance to break down barriers, change perceptions, and seek understanding and respect.” Grace’s inspiring journey from speaker to in-demand model shows us somebody who doesn’t just speak truth-to-power—she lives it. She talks the talk and she walks the walk—maybe on the runway of New York’s Fashion Week someday. We love her for teaching us all that we can be our very best as long as we believe in ourselves, dream big and care for each other with kindness and respect.
Grace is an exciting one to follow who’s influencing the game for people with special needs by showing that inclusion looks beautiful on everyone. Connect with Grace and follow her journey on Instagram and at gracestrobel.com.