Girl becomes first model with Down's Syndrome to win international beauty pageant

A teenager has defied healthcare officials who "painted a bleak future" by becoming the first model with Down's Syndrome to land first place in an international beauty pageant.

Kate Grant, who was told that she would never learn to read or speak, won the Teen Ultimate Beauty of The World competition, which was held in Portadown, Northern Ireland.

The pageant, which celebrates diversity, has three categories for children, teenagers and over-20's - and is open to anyone regardless of their height, weight, or marital status.

Forty candidates from all over the world took part in the pageant, with Kate representing her native Northern Ireland.

After she was interviewed by a panel of judges, Kate took to the catwalk in a slew of different outfits, which included jeans and a white T-shirt for the casual look, a black and white cocktail dress for the formal round, and a sparkling, turquoise sequinned dress for the Time to Shine category.

Kate, who has wanted to be a model since she was 13, has previously modelled at Belfast Fashion Week and for boutiques in her hometown of Cookston, Co Tyrone, but despite her mother, Deirdre, emailing her photographs to various different agencies, she struggled to get work - something she attributes to having Down's Syndrome.

Earlier this year, Deirdre took to social media to post a photograph of Kate in her prom dress, asking if it was so unrealistic for her daughter to aspire to be a model. The post, which was shared over 26,000 times, was eventually seen by the director of the Teen Ultimate Beauty of the World, Taylor-Rae Hamilton, who subsequently invited Kate to come take part in the 2018 iteration.

The model's achievement goes against the bleak outlook one doctor described for Deirdre and her husband John, after Kate was born and confirmed to have Down's Syndrome.

"I thought of him [the doctor] as she made her acceptance speech up on the stage at the pageant, describing her hopes for an inclusive society, one where people like her are treated as equals," the proud mother said when speaking to Kim Willis for Sunday People.

Speaking about the experience, Kate asserted "I want the next generation who have any special needs to know the true meaning of beauty is who you are, not what you look like."

"Kindness, compassion and inner ­sparkle, that's the ultimate beauty. If the judges saw that in me, then I'm happy."