Boy with Down's Syndrome becomes fashion brand's newest model
If you flip through most fashion magazines, you'll notice something about the models. They're always super-tall, super-skinny, and super-unrealistic when it comes to providing an accurate representation of the people they're supposed to be targeting.
And that's one of the main problems when it comes to advertising clothes - or advertising in general, really. While the products might look great, the people modelling them are very rarely a reflection of us regular folks. I mean, how many of your friends are six foot three athletes with washboard abs and perfect hair? Probably not many.
Lately, however, it seems that brands have become more conscious of this issue. Companies are now making greater efforts to include a broader range of genders, body types, and races in their commercials - and so they should. One of the latest retailers to fix their attitude is River Island, whose most recent campaign celebrates the differences and diversity of their audience.
One of the models in this advertisement is Joseph Hale, an 11-year-old boy who happens to have Down's Syndrome. Dressed in a smart teal shirt, plain black jeans, and a very fancy looking pair of dress shoes, Joseph - described in the video as "The Traditionalist" - looks as happy as could be in his on-screen role.
On top of doing an excellent job of showing off River Island's kid's collection, Joseph is also providing fantastic representation and promoting equal opportunities for other people who might often be considered "different".
As well as having Down's Syndrome, a genetic condition which affects around one in every 700 babies born each year, Joseph also has dyspraxia and some developmental delays. Despite this, his parents don't let anything hold him back from doing what he loves.
Joseph's mom, Karen, spoke to her local newspaper about Joseph's condition:
"Disability should not define them. Joseph is a person. His Down’s is a small part of him. There is a lot more to see than the face value.
"They have a physical disability yes, but people have preconceived ideas – you need to see the person beneath.
"There is a lot they can teach others about not taking things for granted and they don’t judge anybody.
"They still have the same thoughts and feelings and dreams."
Joseph himself had a few comments on the campaign, too:
"River Island made it comfortable for me and I really enjoyed it. I was trying to get everyone to dance to the music. It is good to be able to champion disabilities.
"It would be great to do a shoot with Jaffa Cakes or Batman or with Smyths toys."
A representative from River Island, Ashleigh Skinner, also had some very positive things to say about the young model:
"Joseph is a very special and sweet boy.
"From Batman to Jaffa Cakes, Joseph is a big fan of the classics and this comes through in his style too. Smart with a relaxed feel, he likes to keep things traditional.
"The film shows off Joseph’s fun personality and love of his shiny disco dancing shoes. His favourite thing to do is to visit his grandparents and he loves Jaffa Cakes."
Hopefully, more companies will lead by River Island's example, and begin to show greater diversity within their campaigns. This was obviously a huge step in terms of providing better representation for kids who might not get to see others like themselves on TV or in commercials, but there's still a long way to go.