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Boy With Down Syndrome Hits Modeling Big Time

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Ryan Langston, 6, (far left) appeared in Target's Jan. 1 national circular. (Target)

Ryan Langston, 6, (far left) appeared in Target's Jan. 1 national circular. (Target)

After appearing in a national advertisement for Target, a 6-year-old New Jersey boy with Down syndrome is making it big, attracting media attention from as far away as London.

Ryan Langston, sported an orange t-shirt and casual brown pants on page 9 of Target’s Jan. 1 circular, distributed in newspapers and at stores across the country.

But unlike the other child models appearing alongside him, Ryan has Down syndrome. His inclusion is drawing kudos from bloggers across the Web because the boy’s diagnosis was not mentioned in the ad and apparently played no role in his selection.

Since Ryan was pointed out in a posting on the blog Noah’s Dad, his story has gone viral. It’s been featured on the Today Show’s website, in Adweek and London’s The Daily Mail in recent days.

Now, speaking in their first interview, Ryan’s parents, Jim and Amanda Langston, told Disability Scoop that their son’s newfound celebrity has been crazy and they’re just soaking it all up.

They describe Ryan as a mellow kid who loves sports, playing Wii and horsing around with his twin brother, Ian, who’s typically developing. Modeling, they say, has been a blessing for Ryan, offering a level playing field where he can compete against the best of them and thrive.

Ryan Langston's parents describe the budding model as a mellow kid who loves horsing around with his twin brother. (Courtesy: Langston family)

“Ryan is very professional,” says his mom, Amanda Langston. “When he gets there and sees that he’s going to put on an outfit, he’s very into it. We love it for him because we started to see how he responded to it. He’s so proud of himself and it is a huge confidence booster.”

The Target circular was not Ryan’s first foray in front of the camera and it’s not likely to be his last. Last summer, he appeared in a Nordstrom catalog. And Target recently asked the boy’s parents for additional photos so they can consider him for future shoots.

Ryan has been called in for other jobs as well, but his parents say they’ve always put school first and lots of modeling gigs conflict with the boy’s schedule at the private, special education school he attends.

Traditionally, models with disabilities have appeared in advertisements targeted to the special needs community such as the annual Toys “R” Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. But Ryan’s story is just one more example of how things may be starting to change. A 14-month-old British girl with Down syndrome recently made headlines after landing modeling deals with a global toy store and a clothing shop for which she competed against typically developing kids. Similarly, Ryan has been included in mainstream ads exclusively.

For their part, representatives of Target Corp. say that Ryan’s appearance in their ad is part of the company’s long-running effort to reflect diversity.

“Target is committed to diversity and inclusion in every aspect of our business, including our advertising campaigns,” company spokeswoman Jessica Carlson said in a statement. “Target has included people with disabilities in our advertising for many years and will continue to feature people that represent the diversity of communities across the country.”

As for Ryan, he’s thrilled seeing his photo in major advertisements and plastered across the Internet alike, his parents say.

“He’s so proud of it,” says Ryan’s dad Jim Langston. “When we got the Target circular this week and I showed him on page 9, he blushed and said ‘that’s me.’”

And that’s making for a couple of proud parents too.

“The greatest thing that Nordstrom and Target are doing is that they’re not making any reference to his disability. He’s just another cute kid,” says Jim Langston. “As parents, it’s a bit of a victory lap for us because the first three months of his life were pretty tough. He was in the hospital, then he went home for a while, then he had open heart surgery when he was 3 months old. He had a pretty tough start and to see him now at this point is kind of a pat on the back.”

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Comments (24 Responses)

  1. Noah's Dad says:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I”m Noah’s Dad (the site that blogged about the ad.) I”m so thankful to see this story getting out. We hope through stories like Ryan, and sites like ours the eyes of the world will be gin to shift (we do a one minute daily video to show the world that life is much more normal than un-normal raising a child with special needs).

    Thank you for helping the message spread.

    Noah’s Dad

  2. carol says:

    my daughter is 17 with downs she can dance hula and hip hop real good at it too but noone will take her serious because of how she looks .i never post acomment before but to see your son do this makes me happy i hope more doors open for theses childern they can sing dance act model people need to open there hearts good luck.

  3. Diane says:

    HI there….this story brings tears to my eye and hope to my heart. I have a 10 year old daughter with Downs, and I do everything I can to get people to see HER not her diagnosis. I would love for her to have the opportunities your son has had. I think she would love it as well! She is quite the ham…and of course, beautiful. I had been asked when she was about 3 if I would let her model, but the company wanted her for “special needs” catalogs, and I would not allow her to be exploited in that way. This brings hope for her future!! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Nicole Turon-Diaz says:

    Fabulous! Such a cutie!

  5. Julie says:

    Kudos to Ryan, his parents, Target & Nordstrom. I’ll be sure to spend my dollars with these companies!

  6. Jackie says:

    It is wonderful to see our kids being treated as they should always have been, a wondrous beautiful part of of humanity. If we we all only smart enough to follow what they teach us on a daily basis, this would be a much better world !

  7. Diana Johnston says:

    I think this is AWESOME! My daughter just turned 3 on New Year’s Eve. She is our little angel who was also born with Down Syndrome. She’s doing great and I love the idea of people not looking at her as a child with DS, but a beautiful angel sent from God above………just like all other children.

  8. Kari Kidd says:

    Wow!! So very proud of Ryan!! Very proud of Target as well. This makes me so happy to see one of our kids making headlines! I have thought of allowing my daughter Lily (3) to step into the industry but have been hesitant because of the “label” she could be stuck with. This is a huge step for the DS community!!

  9. Donna says:

    Good on Target!!! I will continue to shop there now more than ever!

  10. Tom McEvoy says:

    Hooray for Ryan and family. My son [ now 21 ] is auditing a college level course and it makes us all feel good to see this wonderful subgroup [ if I can call it that ] included in daily life. Our son has made the world a better place and touched many, many people.

  11. Aurelia says:

    It’s time that people with disability is be included in the mainstream media. we need to see more of it and allow people to talk, disability is part of life like other illness, and there are alternative when we want to live together in harmony.

  12. Marianne says:

    Heartwarming story giving hope that our world, in someways, is moving in the right direction. Good luck to Ryan and the Langston family.

  13. Denice LeBlanc says:

    What a great story! I loved hearing about Ryan’s adventure! I hope this spreads and more retailers offer kids with special needs of all ages opportunities to shine! As a high school vocational special needs teacher, these kids are part of society and should be viewed with their peers! Good job Ryan I am so proud of you :)

  14. Karen Bailey says:

    Congratulations to Ryan and all of the Langstons. What a beautiful little boy you have. Our son Mike, who also has Down Syndrome, is 31 years old. He has been working at Loehmann’s for over 10 years. He takes
    exercise classes at DeAnza Jr. College and has been doing Special Olympics for 24 years. Mike was the
    Special Olympic Athlete of 2007 for Northern California. We never would have dreamed that he would be so independent as he grew up. He takes the city bus to work, school and for social events. He loves to dress up and has even been in an ad for HOPE in the San Jose Mercury News. He loves life and has added a lot to the lives of his 3 siblings and of course his parents. Keep up the great job Ryan and we are very proud of you.
    The Bailey Family
    Sunnyvale, CA

  15. Tim says:

    Wonderful! Congradulations to Ryan and his family on the sucess. It is well deserved. Finally those of us with special needs are starting to be seen just like everyone else, with our own talents to share. If I may say so it’s about time that people with disabilities are included just like everyone else. I so glad Ryan is being given the chance to show what he can do. I have the pleasure of working with scouts who have disabilities, and seeing every week just what all they can (and do) achieve!

  16. Kurt's mom says:

    My son Kurt, who is now 21 years old and has Down syndrome, was a model for Fisher Price toys when he was 2-3 years old in their regular catalog in the early 1990′s. There was no special needs catalog at the time. So, inclusion in advertising by people with developmental disabilities is not new, as this article would lead people to believe.

  17. a fontes says:

    this is what Inclusion is all about!
    EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL

  18. shane says:

    very pleasantly surprising to see inclusion and media exposure, it is ahrd to tell a child that the people like him will never apear on tv and on movies, but obviously if initiatives like this continue this willl never have to happen. everyone needs to be able to relate to people in a similar situation/predicament and be able to loook up to role-models whoa re not disparate and different. i am 18 and i live with an autism spectrum disorder and i ahev accepted that i have a plethora of drawbacks but actualise this all as baing as essential facet of who i am, an integral aprt of my individuality and without it i would likely not be so unique and human even,. autism is not a disorder withiout autism we would not be able to appreciate so much art and beauty in this world, it is often the scenario that extreme giftedness accompanies extreme impairment or disillusion, the compulsion and the nagging urge to learn are part of me and there is nothing wrong with seeing the world and conceiving the world in an alternate ways my priorities may be different but my humanity is likewise.

  19. Rita Baszler says:

    Thanks for the note. We love the inclusion that our daughter feels every day at school and in our community. That needs to be celebrated. At home she pretends she is Hannah Montana, a mom, and of course a Model — it is just a fantasy for her. I am so happy your boy is living the dream!!!!

  20. TNOMAL says:

    Now thats cool!!!!

  21. Kelly says:

    Who do I talk to about getting my daughter with DS into modeling?

  22. Angela Kouns says:

    I think that this is amazing. It is about time our kids are seen for who they are and not their diagnosis. My daughter , Sky, is seven and has downs, and I would not have her any other way. She is so amazing she has taught us so much more than we could ever teach her. These kids are so open to everyone, they don’t see black or white, skinny or fat, they love you without conditions. It is amazing. If more people were like this the world would be such a better place!!!!!!

  23. Tom says:

    My son has DS and is quite the character! Rock on Noah! Keep pushing and paving they way!!!!

  24. Eric says:

    I am hoping to get my son Ricky into modeling. He is 7 and is the cutest little bugger like Noah. If anyone has a pointer on where to start it would be appreciated.

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