A heartfelt message from Vicky DePiore, the mother of a model with Down Syndrome.
She was rushed to another hospital and I couldn’t see her. When I walked through the lobby that night, just after having a C-section, the elderly volunteer at the front desk asked me, “Are you the mother of the Down Syndrome baby?” This made me stop in my tracks. Why did she call her that, and why did she need to know? After a little time, I told her yes. She said, “God bless you”. I thought to myself, why do I need to be blessed? What does this mean?
Well, I know now what it means. I was truly blessed by being selected to be this beautiful young lady’s mother. Only joy and love does Olivia exude. In everything she does, she worries about others and wants to make things better and happy. Why can’t we all just have a little of this perspective?
Thankfully, the hole in her heart healed up on its own with surgery. Whew, we got by that hurdle.
The next 17 years would be our task of supporting her, educating her, caring for her, and educating the society in which we live in. Anything from how you look at her, how you talk with her, how you treat her, how you include her, how you celebrate her, how you tell her to not notice things that people do and say, etc. Helping her was the easy part. Helping society will be a life-long journey for us and her.
So, we’ve taken a pledge for that to be our calling. We will, by the end of our lives, dedicate ourselves to educating on inclusion, sometimes even forcing the situation. We felt that once she was “there”, people might understand just a little bit more and possibly spread this understanding to others where they may “include”, too.
When we are raising our children, we seek for the understanding of what skills they have and what passions they have. As in any individual, we are all different and try to do things to accentuate our good skills. That’s the same thing with Olivia. We saw her shine when a camera came close by and also saw her watch others and imitate their movements and looks. She started studying models and actors and found a skill that not many people have.
When she models, you see a whole different Olivia, where she shows confidence, creativity, and a great learning. Here’s her niche! Olivia can use her whole self to advocate for inclusion and showing the world that differences are OK. Remember, she’s a whole lot more LIKE us than DIFFERENT than us, too. For all of us, those differences we have make us unique and Olivia reminds us of this every waking day.
She started in some small, local fashion shows. The great people she’s worked with recognized that passion and the need for inclusion in our world, and asked her to share her passion with others on a bigger scale.
Ohio Fashion Week, Miami Fashion Week, “Greatest Growth in Modeling” Award, New York Fashion Week twice, Paris Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, and now Dubai World Fashion Week.
Magazines are calling her asking for interviews. Designers are reaching out for representation. A London-based design magazine just requested her to be an ambassador. The word is getting out there, but we’re not even close to where we need to be.
To all the believers and supporters, we can’t thank you enough and keep up the good work. There will be a day where we can look back and not understand why we treat people with differing abilities with exclusion. I can’t wait for that day to come.