'I really love wearing the beautiful dresses. They make me feel really amazing.'
Fashion runways are often inaccessible and most of these shows work on stereotypical beauty standards that exclude people with any disability. However, a teenager with Down syndrome is changing the narrative. Monika Myers, 14, was born with Down syndrome and has been dealing with the stigma attached to the syndrome since she was a toddler. The Toronto resident has now become an inspiration to those with the same condition. Monika recently took part in the runway at two major fashion hotspots—Toronto Kids Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week—as Canada's first model with Down syndrome, according to Montreal Gazette. "It feels really great and amazing. I really loved New York. I enjoyed all the beautiful buildings, restaurants and taxis. I enjoyed meeting so many people. And of course, the modeling was amazing," she wrote in an email to Postmedia.
Monika has always loved fashion; she frequently gets dressed up and poses for pictures. She has drawn inspiration from some well-known Down syndrome models, such as Madeline Stuart and Ellie Goldstein, a Gucci model. Stephanie Myers, her mother, explained that one day they were watching a movie and Monika was appreciating the beauty of an actor. She asked her why does she think so and Monika replied, "Mom, every woman is beautiful." Her mother said, "And that was when it dawned on me and I asked her if she would like to try for modeling or acting as well."
Monika explained, "I really love wearing beautiful dresses. They make me feel really amazing. I feel really excited to walk on the runway." Suzy Tamsy, of SuzyQJewels, from Toronto Kids Fashion Week, said, "Monika was spectacular on the runway and showcased her SuzyQJewels dress stunningly with her fierce walk of confidence." Monika has been highlighted in the magazine Biz and Fashion. She exudes a charisma and sense of style that has fashion designers in awe.
Monika wants everyone with a dream to take a chance and go for it. "Don’t be nervous, just go for it. Be brave and beautiful and believe in yourself." Tamsy agrees: "Today we need to encourage everyone that they can achieve their dreams if they put in the work to accomplish them. Monika is a true example of reaching for the stars, from the first time I met her in the fitting room, and (I’m) truly honored to have her wear SuzyQJewels in TKFW."
Her mother said that Monika is just doing what she loves and has no plans for the future right now. She explained, "I think it’s really exciting for her. Right now we’re going to take it as far as she loves it." As part of her "I am brave and beautiful" project, Monika creates bracelets to empower people and donates money to good causes. Her hobbies extend beyond modeling. She has been involved in dance, theater, ballet, and hip-hop since an early age. She is a downhill skier, cyclist, and gold medalist in synchronized swimming in addition to being a Girl Guide and singing in a choir.