Little girl awestruck by Ulta model who also uses a wheelchair

The 4-year-old was blown away by the inclusive makeup ad.
Little girl inspired by Ulta Beauty ad
Little girl inspired by Ulta Beauty adCarolyn Anderson

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/ Source: TODAY
By Lindsay Lowe

This inclusive poster stopped a little girl in her tracks.

Carolyn Anderson was out and about in Leesburg, Virginia, with her 4-year-old daughter, Maren, when they saw an Ulta Beauty ad featuring a model in a wheelchair.

Maren, who uses a wheelchair herself, was awestruck by the poster, and her mom caught her sweet reaction on camera.

“Well Ulta, you absolutely stopped my girl in her tracks this evening,” Anderson wrote in a Facebook post, which has since gone viral. “It was mesmerizing to watch her stop, turn and gaze at this poster. So thank you.”

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Maren, who has a rare disease caused by a genetic mutation, only recently started using a wheelchair, and Anderson said her daughter is still getting used to using it in public.

“This evening in particular, she was showing a lot of confidence, which is not typical of her. And so we were just so excited and letting her go and cruise and drive her wheelchair, and then all of a sudden she stopped,” Anderson told TODAY. “You could just tell that she identified with it from the get go. And for her, a 4-year-old child ... to sit there in awe at this photo for close to a minute was pretty profound.”

At the same time, Anderson said it was sad to think of how rarely Maren sees ads and posters like this.

“Our hearts sort of sank because it's such a wonderful feeling to see her do that, but then it also is somewhat saddening that this is so profound for her to see in public because of the lack of representation for the disability community, particularly for children,” she said.

Anderson’s photo has been shared more than 79,000 times on Facebook, which she said has been an incredible surprise.

“I woke up the next morning and couldn't believe that there was almost 10,000 shares of her photo,” she told TODAY. “In the best way possible, it was a great thing to see. Especially because the response from everybody is so heart-warming and supportive, 99% of it, and it just makes us so glad, and gives us some faith and hope for our daughter growing up.”

Thousands of fans sent messages of love and support, and Ulta Beauty even reached out to the Andersons. They are working on arranging a meeting between Maren and the model in the ad.

"We love that this family shared such an amazing moment and were touched to see Maren looking at the image in our window — it makes us incredibly proud,” an Ulta Beauty spokeswoman said in a statement to NBC4 in Washington, D.C. “We feel even more inspired to continue to feature amazing people that help us shape how the world sees beauty."

Anderson hopes more companies will follow Ulta’s example and create more ads that portray people with disabilities.

“We appreciate that there is progress being made with accessibility, with inclusion, with representation, but there's still a really long way to go,” she said. “There's a lot of families out there that (are) going to have potentially a child that's disabled. And right now, there's just not a very large place for them to go to seek support, to know that their kid has a place in this community and in our society.

“Because that's really what it meant when Maren saw this photo the other day,” she added. “It just really spoke to us saying that she feels included, and she feels like she identifies with that, and belongs here just like everybody else.”