A local 4-year-old took the spotlight at New York Fashion Week recently, where she rolled down the runway to introduce adaptive fashion.
Estelle Lemieux appeared as one of 60 models on The Runway of Dreams, a one-of-a-kind adaptive runway show aptly titled A Fashion Revolution presented by Kohl’s. The seventh annual show took place on September 12th at The Glasshouse in New York City.
“It was such an enlightening experience for her. She has never been exposed to so many people with all kinds of disabilities/differences. I definitely think it helped her understand and accept her disability/wheelchair,” said Amy Lemieux, Estelle’s mother.
Estelle, the daughter of Amy and Douglas Lemieux, has Type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She started showing symptoms around 6 months of age but was not diagnosed until she was 16 months because it took a long time to get the right diagnosis.
Lemieux said her daughter was fortunate to receive all three FDA-approved treatments for the neuromuscular disease, including the world’s most expensive drug called Zolgensma at a cost of $2.1 million for one treatment. She also takes daily medication and therapies to build muscle and fight a disease that is historically progressive without treatment.
“This short vacation to New York was a great distraction for her to just be a kid for a few days and take a break from her therapies. We have to explore the city and walk to Times Square. Estelle loved the hustle and bustle and the bright lights. We went to the M&M store, American Girl doll store, Disney and also Harry Potter. She had a great time,” her mother said.
The Runway of Dreams Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide inclusion, acceptance and opportunity in the fashion industry for people with disabilities. The evening showcased adaptive clothing and footwear from leading brands such as Kohl’s, Target, Zappos.com, JCPenney, Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, No Limbits and Stride Rite. Steve Madden debuted his line of adaptive footwear alongside brands French Toast Adaptive, Stemwear and Magnetic Me, which showcased products from their new adaptive collections.
Estelle was allowed to walk the runway three times and started crying when she realized the show was over. Since returning from her trip, Lemieux said her daughter has raised various models she’s met, saying, “It’s just the way her body was made and it’s okay to be different.”
Lemieux loves that Estelle is curious about other people.
“She sees that God makes us all unique. This is what makes Runway of Dreams so important and necessary. Society needs more presence. People with disabilities deserve to be seen in everything, including fashion and advertising. It’s time we normalized disabilities,” she said.
Lemieux tells her daughter the world would be a boring place if everyone looked the same, and she said Estelle was beginning to see it too.
“She’s even saying it herself now. She can do whatever she wants in life,” Lemieux said. “We just have to do some things a little bit differently and that’s okay. She has such a positive and bright spirit for such a young girl. We are so proud of them.”
Estelle started her modeling career about a year ago. She is signed to the Model Club in Boston and GAMUT Management in New York, a talent management company that works with people with disabilities.
The runway show wasn’t Estelle’s first experience as a model – she’s been shooting for Hasbro toys and starring in a children’s book called Gary’s Giant Dream by Nicole Julia.
Follow her on her Facebook page “Estelle’s SMAmazing journey” or on Instagram @RaisingaRaregirl.