Urban Angels, an elite UK child modeling agency, opens their books only twice a year in search of new talent. Little Taya Kennedy was one of 50 children chosen out of 2,000 applicants. The fact that she has Down syndrome “did not enter the equation,” says Alysa Lewis, owner of the agency.
Taya’s mother, Gemma Andre, told the Daily Mail that she was overjoyed when she heard the news, “not because Taya was going to be a model. More importantly, she had competed on equal terms with every other child and succeeded.”
At 14 months old, Taya seems to have been born to surpass expectations. Children diagnosed with Down syndrome typically are not expected to walk until they are three to five years old. Taya is already able to stand and has excellent muscle tone. Her physiotherapist thinks she will be walking by Christmas. Taya also responds well to visual stimulation and likes it when people mime to her, “so the whole family is learning sign language,” says Gemma.
It was difficult at first for Gemma and Taya’s father, Robbie. When the doctor delivered the news that Taya was born with Down syndrome, “we didn’t know what to expect or hope for,” Gemma says. “We were literally sent home with a booklet.” Gemma and Robbie were unprepared and grief-stricken. “We couldn’t help but selfishly wonder why this had happened to us.” But Taya’s parents decided that they would not dwell on their daughter’s limitations due to her condition. Instead, they focus on her strengths.
Taya is a natural in front of the camera. Retailers are already lining up to feature her in their advertising campaigns. Urban Angels’ client list includes big name companies such as Burberry, H&M, GAP, and Stella McCartney. According to Lewis, they chose Taya “because of her vibrancy and sense of fun . . . She was just what we were looking for.”