When 17-year-old Karrie Brown became Wet Seal's first model with Down syndrome, she inspired more than the thousands of people who "liked" her Facebook page campaign to get there.
She also inspired her mom, Sue Brown. But that wasn't the first time.
In an essay for xoJane, Sue wrote about the moment she discovered that her child would be born with Down syndrome. "My mother wisely let me cry for about 20 minutes, then asked me what had changed," she writes.
What her mother eventually told her re-shaped the way she approached the news: "My mom said, 'Your baby might have a disability, but she will only be disabled if you make her that way.'"
Seventeen years later, it looks as if that positive attitude has helped, leading Karrie to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Sue writes that Karrie has "terrific self-esteem" and looks at herself in the mirror while patting her tummy, which Karrie says she loves.
Because kids with Down syndrome have soft muscle mass, she writes, they often need to shop in the plus-size section of stores. Turns out, Wet Seal has a selection that both fits and appeals to teens like Karrie.
So on Karrie's first day of 11th grade in August, Sue posted a photo on Facebook of Karrie in her Wet Seal gear. Other parents of kids with Down syndrome asked where she shopped, and Sue told them about Wet Seal and that Karrie wanted to be one of their models.
Because of the overwhelming response, she set up a Facebook page the next day, hoping to catch Wet Seal's attention—which she did in a big way.
"Wet Seal challenged Karrie to get 10,000 'likes' on that Wednesday by Friday—she was over 11,000 before noon on Thursday!" Sue writes.
Wet Seal then flew Karrie and Sue out to California for a modeling shoot. Company representatives also took the mother-daughter pair on a tour of the headquarters and offered them a shopping spree at one of their nearby stores. They also got a trip to Disneyland.
And how did Karrie like the actual shoot—what with all of those lights and fans and cameras?
"She amazed me and just about everyone else with what great modeling moves she had ready to show off to everyone watching," Sue writes.
Not only that, but Sue was once again reminded of how much a positive, encouraging attitude helps—and the lessons her own daughter has taught her about goals and expectations.
"I love that even during the day itself she showed me exactly what happens when you start to underestimate someone," she writes. "All it is—is a reflection on you."