Gigi Cunnginham has overcome odds since she was a child. Though doctors' outlooks for her were bleak due to her Down syndrome diagnosis, she was walking by age 3 and excelled in her special education programs in elementary school.
Time has gone by but the 18-year-old hasn't slowed down. Right on the heels of Madeline Stuart, another model with Down syndrome, Cunningham has taken a liking to the craft as well. According to The Mighty, Cunningham will walk in this year's Be Beautiful, Be Yourself fashion show put on by the Global Down Syndrome Foundation in Denver, Colorado.
"What I love most about modeling is that I can be myself, the crowd is smiling, I love that I can showcase my beauty and breakdown the stereotype of what people think when it comes to people with Down Syndrome," she told A Plus.
But her path to success wasn't always smooth sailing. She told A Plus that she bad been badly bullied, and girls went so far as to call her ugly. Since that day, she and her mother have adopted a new way to living: each morning she tells herself she is beautiful and they high-five.
"My new found self-confidence and determination made me feel like I could accomplish anything," she told A Plus.
And she's already off to a great start. Aside from the fashion show and modeling, Cunningham will spend her 18th birthday as an ambassador advocating on Capitol Hill in 2016 for Down Syndrome.
She'll also continue using her passion for modeling as another platform to inspire others, the way the Madeline Stuart inspires her. She says as long as there is breath in her lungs, she won't quit dreaming on a fully-inclusive, bully-free world.
"My dream is to become a model and change society perceptions on people with special needs and challenges." she told A Plus.
This article has been updated with quotes from Gigi.