Marks and Spencer has chosen a four-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome to model its latest range of children’s clothing.
Blond-haired Seb White will feature in the chain’s Christmas magazine after mum Caroline made a plea to the retail giant on Facebook.
Now his face will be seen by thousands – and Caroline hopes it will help break down barriers for those with the condition.
The 39-year-old contacted M&S after noticing how rarely children with Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities appeared in media adverts.
She said: “When Seb was born, I vividly remember seeing lots of ads with hundreds of beautifully perfect kids in them and it just added to my sense of isolation and difference.
“Then back in July when we were shopping for Seb’s school uniform it occurred to me again that all the ‘different’ children out there that are starting school are just not represented.”
Caroline – who lives in Bath, Somerset, with Seb, her husband Simon, 36, a manager at a toiletries company, and one-year-old son Dominic – posted a message on M&S’s Facebook page.
She wrote: “He has striking, unusual features, charms the pants off everyone he meets and his little face is full of magic and mischief.
“So here’s the thing. He also happens to have Down’s Syndrome. When he was born I was shocked to my core.
“I knew nothing about the condition and what should have been the happiest day of my life was the worst.
“I could never have imagined how excited and proud I would feel about him starting mainstream school in a couple of weeks. I wouldnt swap him or my experience for the world.
“My heartfelt plight is to get him ‘out there’ and get the message across that different isn’t any less wonderful – or even that different.
“I also think using him could help create a truly original, bold and memorable campaign, which would fit perfectly with M&S’s family values and inclusive ethics.”
Product manager Caroline said: “The response on Facebook was phenomenal. Within hours there were hundreds of likes and really supportive comments.”
Not long afterwards, Caroline got a message from the company asking her to give them a call.
“I didn’t dare get my hopes up but when I made the call I couldn’t believe it. They thought the idea was great,” she said.
Within a week, Seb was invited to a photoshoot at a studio in London.
Caroline said: “He likes being the centre of attention and he loves cameras. The people who did the shoot were amazing with him.”
M&S chiefs were so impressed they decided to use his images in the store’s Christmas magazine, which will be out in November.
A spokesperson for the company said: “The response from our customers to Caroline’s post on our Facebook page was amazing. It really was social media at its best.
“We always look for kids who have fun in front of the camera and Sebastian was a pleasure to work with.
“Everyone involved in the shoot had a fantastic day and we’re really looking forward to seeing Sebastian in our Christmas magazine.”
It is not the first time Seb has been in front of the camera. Earlier this year the youngster modelled for children’s clothing brand JoJo Maman Bébé as part of
its campaign to introduce images of people with disabilities to the public eye.
Now Caroline hopes to get Seb, who started school last week, a starring role in a TV campaign.
She said: “I’ve never been the sort of mother who pushes her kids to do modelling, but it is about getting his face out there and raising awareness.
“If Seb’s modelling helps someone else who feels isolated because of Down’s Syndrome, then we’ve done what we set out to do.”