Fashion Focus student Madison Phillips spreads message of acceptanceBy Lannan M. O’Brien | Above photos courtesy Fashion Focus program and Lisa Phillips
When 19-year-old Madison Phillips of Hanson started attending Fashion Focus—a Pembroke program that helps girls of all ages to “discover the beauty of self-confidence”—she struggled with social interactions. For Madison, who has Down syndrome, face-to-face communication can be challenging when others don’t understand her, says Fashion Focus owner Maria Wood.
Through the program, Wood has worked with Madison on skills such as speech, eye contact and balance. Madison has not only gained confidence as a result, but she has also discovered a passion for modeling and acting, forming relationships with other young women and modeling in multiple fashion shows.
“What stands out especially [about Madison] is her determination to not be treated differently,” Wood says.
On December 29 from 6-7:30 p.m., Fashion Focus will host an event called “Mingle with Madi” that will allow Madison to showcase what she has learned. She will show a video with an introduction about herself and a short public service announcement, which will address “her desire to change people’s perceptions and misconceptions about what people with disabilities can do,” Wood says.
Additionally, Madison’s mother, Lisa Phillips, will debut a book about Madison’s accomplishments entitled, Angel: Madison’s Journey with Downs Syndrome. Phillips says that the book, which will be donated to area hospitals in its second printing, is intended to provide hope for new parents of children with Down syndrome.
While learning of Madison’s disorder was shocking, Phillips says, she has grown to be a strong, motivated young woman willing to take on any challenge.
“She wants people to know that Down Syndrome is not contagious—it’s just a label and she’s Madi,” she says of her daughter.