The whole thing came about via a Facebook comment a few months back. Emma, co-owner of Ten Little Monkey's, is an old friend of mine from school and as is so often the case these days we have kept in contact through Facebook. Emma had made a comment on a picture I posted of Bud, remarking on how beautiful she was. I returned a jokey message saying "maybe she should come and model for your shop one day :) ..." Emma responded with "yeah why not? I'm all for that!" I was taken aback a little at first and then thought about how exciting an opportunity this could really be in the promotion of inclusion and raising positive awareness. As many of you will already know this is already happening with the likes of M&S, Frugi, JoJo Maman Bebe, Boden, Next, Weird Fish, The Eden Project and Eureka Museum etc all including children with DS in their advertising and without making a big song and dance about it either which is why I take the opinion that it's genuine inclusion and not exploitation. It is a fine line granted and as a parent you ask yourself these questions over and over but I feel it is a real positive leap forward.
I was encouraged by recent conversations where I'd asked people if they had seen Seb, the little boy in the M&S Christmas advert who has Down's syndrome – many of responses were, "yes I've seen the advert but I didn't notice a boy with Down's syndrome?"... That right there is huge progress, the kind that needs building on and I don't just mean inclusion of people with Down's syndrome I'm talking every aspect of disABILITY, we need to continue the fabulous work already being done by the likes of beautiful Natty G and the fantastic exposure and legacy left by the London Paralympics to stand a chance of permanently changing the way we as a society view disABILITY.
The shoot itself went really well, Emma made us feel instantly at ease and was so good with Rosie throughout the session, which lasted about an hour. We received the first pics a couple of days ago for us to approve and we couldn't be happier. In a couple of the shots I noticed Rosie's tongue sticking out and for a moment was foolishly concerned that this wouldn't be ideal for promoting inclusion, a little flashback to my own pre-Rosie ignorance raising its head perhaps...Anyway I mentioned it to Emma and this was her response:
"I didn't mind her tongue being out as I like that it captures her. I like all of the images and am happy to use any as it is who she is. I'm about people looking like they actually do look. For me the DS is part of what makes her her and I don't see any negative connotations to this. That said I won't use them if you don't like them but I think she looks lovely in all of them. totally your call."
I still get a bit emotional when people see Rosie for who she is and not a diagnosis and Emma's response above was no exception.
I have included the shortlist of shots below with the kind permission of Ten Little Monkeys. Please do take the time to visit their website to see their wonderful collections, Rosie's pictures will be making an appearance in the next week or so.