Girls with Down syndrome taught modeling, self-esteem in North Hollywood

Denise Dador Image
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Girls with Down syndrome learn to walk runway in modeling class
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A North Hollywood class is helping girls with Down syndrome learn modeling techniques - and more importantly, self-confidence.

LOS ANGELES -- Disability does not mean inability.

That's the motto of a modeling class for girls who have Down syndrome.

Their teacher shows them no matter what they do they should have a positive attitude while doing it.

This local runway class is helping these young students grow more confident every day.

As 11-year-old Isabella Cruz takes her turn in the mirror, 10-year-old Stephany Godinez prepares for her time to shine.

These young ladies with Down syndrome are learning the art of the runway at a dance studio in North Hollywood.

Instructor Renadda Wiggins came up with the concept nine years ago after a parent brought in her daughter.

"She had Down syndrome. I didn't have the heart to tell her I can't train her so I ended up doing a one-on-one session with her," said Wiggins.

Wiggins soon realized these students were not any different from anyone else.

"Think about it: What is a disability? We all got one. We just don't know what it is," said Wiggins.

Stepping and turning on the right count is more challenging than you might think. Wiggins keeps things positive, yelling "good job!" each time the girls make an effort.

Affirmations said into the mirror such as, "I am beautiful, I am smart" teach these model students there's nothing they can't do.

"Once they feel it, they're going to start acting on it," Wiggins said. "And once they act on it, they're going to start seeing that they really can be what they want to be."

The goal is to teach these young ladies poise and self-confidence. Those are things that will help them in all aspects of their lives, but lately Wiggins has been asking herself why not teach them to model professionally?

"A model should be diverse. A model should be what the world is. People with Down syndrome. Autism. People that are disabled," she said.

Isabella Cruz enjoys the class. Her mom noticed a change.

Martha Cruz said, "She's more active. She wants to participate more in class."

Stephany Godinez says learning to model has taught her Down syndrome doesn't have to limit her.

"I can be whatever I want to be," Godinez said.

The Art of the Runway classes are held every Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Students are looking forward to summer boot camp where they'll also learn about makeup. But, Wiggins said, the greatest beauty tip is learning to love yourself.

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