When you see somebody else triumph, you often only see the good parts of their journey. Hardly anyone takes into account all the effort that they had to do to get there. Only them and the people that stuck with them through thick and thin truly know just how challenging it can be to truly fight for a dream. And unfortunately, today, this is even truer when it comes to people with disabilities because we still live in a world where canons of beauty are still fairly rigid.
Jessica Jacinto is 22 years old and lives in Valencia, Venezuela. She was born with Down syndrome, but the condition did not limit her to fight for her dreams. One of them was to be a professional model, and she achieved it after many years of preparation, effort, and thanks to the motivation of becoming a true star of the catwalks.
“I want to be an international model.” “I like the pictures, I like to walk the runway.” Jessica has the personality and mastery on stage to choose her own aesthetics and beauty, aspects that are conquering many people. Thanks to the support of her mother, who has accompanied and guided her unconditionally, her dream has led her to the beginning of a very exciting international career.
At the age of 14, while she was starting high school, Jessica was already practicing some sports such as gymnastics, swimming, and athletics, but they did not really make her happy. Then her mother, Yanira, and Jessica received an invitation to a beauty pageant for girls with Down syndrome, which they accepted just to try something new. “In no sport did I see her happy, I saw that she was wasting her time and I was wasting mine too. When I saw her walk the runway I realized that this was her world, not mine.”
When she saw her so happy and uninhibited, she realized that Jessica had taken the wrong path and that the world of fashion was what she really liked.
“For me, being a model is like studying a career that you like, that you are really passionate about, and even if you don’t believe it, it takes dedication and innovation to improve yourself. The minute I’m on the catwalk, I become someone else. It’s almost as if there was someone else inside me suddenly coming out. I feel empowered.”
To this day, she has taken part in many castings and only once in a modeling contest. She started signing up for these events thanks to her mom’s support. She’d surf Instagram on the lookout for any opportunities for her daughter.
Jessica has since been invited by local entrepreneurs and designers to model. They all describe her admirable qualities. She possesses great charisma and strength, which are helping her carve her own path in the world of Venezuelan catwalks.
Together they have overcome tough challenges. As her mother says, “There is still a long way to go in Venezuela in terms of inclusion. The few big modeling agencies I’ve tried to get her into to give her a push always tell me they’re going to call me and they never do, same goes with some brands.”
However, nothing has really kept Jessica’s or her mother’s morale down for long. Together, they’ve gone through thick and thin. Her mom is even in charge of managing her social media. “As I would like her to make her dream come true, I can’t get enough, and I know that someday she will achieve it.”
Jessica is not only a professional model, she also participated in a project of the Carabobo-Valencia branch, “We are different, but not inferior”, becoming a certified member of the Venezuelan Red Cross.
“Being a Red Cross member was a very nice and educational experience, of which I feel very proud. The project showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to and that I could perform various activities. That is why I am in a dance academy, also in skating.”
“Thanks to the project, I shared for the first time with kids with Down syndrome in various activities, as I have always been included with regular kids.”
Her mother also shared her experience with us: “As a mother, you feel proud that your daughter is reaching her goals. Her day-to-day life is like any other person’s: she goes to school, to extra-curricular activities, we don’t really make a big deal about modeling at home. We haven’t changed our humble approach to life, in fact, many parents with children with this condition have written to us asking for advice.”
“As a mother, I advise other parents and kids to:
- Not to be discouraged when something goes wrong and not to be afraid to dabble in new projects.
- As parents, don’t focus on your dreams but on your child’s dreams. Do not feel anxious if you don’t see results overnight, there’s a good time for everything.
- Do not try to make your child be someone that (s)he’s not, let them be themselves. Work and strive. Nothing is easy, but nothing is impossible either.
- Don’t compare to others, the key to success is to treat your children normally.”
Jessica also can see the joy of her parents for the great effort that, together, they have achieved after at least 10 years of hard work and dedication. “My parents are very happy and proud of me, as they see that every day I work hard and I’m very disciplined, every day more and more. And of course, they see I’m happy, which is what they really want for me.”
What does beauty mean to you? What inspires you most in life?