A young woman with Down syndrome is following her dream of being a model, and inspiring countless others in the process.
When Grace Strobel, 23, was born with Down syndrome, a genetic counselor told her parents about all the things she would struggle with, from reading and writing to tying her shoes.
But her parents wanted to focus on their daughter’s potential, not just her limitations.
“We didn't look at it as a syndrome,” Strobel’s mom, Linda Strobel, told NBC News’ Kristen Dahlgren. “We looked at it (as), OK, we're going to help her become the best person she can.”
A few years ago, a bullying incident at school inspired Strobel to give presentations to students about Down syndrome, explaining what it’s like to live a day in her life.
Strobel has spoken to more than 3,000 students over the past two years, answering kids’ questions about life with Down syndrome, and encouraging her peers to be kind and compassionate to people with differences.
“I wanted to share with students what it’s like to have struggles, and I wanted to show how we can change someone’s life just by being kind and giving respect, no matter who you are,” she told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie during a recent visit to TODAY. “We want all the same things: to be valued, to be respected and to be loved.”
Last year, Strobel had another ambitious dream: to become a model. Her parents were all for it, and when they posted her modeling photos on Facebook last year, the images quickly went viral.
Since then, Strobel has appeared in multiple magazines and walked the runway during Atlantic City Fashion Week.
“I love modeling because it makes me feel good about myself,” Strobel said on TODAY.
For Linda, it’s an emotional experience to see her daughter embracing her talents and inspiring so many others.
“When I see her modeling and when I see her standing up in front of students, and the students are sitting up on their knees and they’re glued to her and all they want to do at the end is hug her. It just fills me with such incredible joy that I can’t even explain, because I know how hard she’s worked to get here,” she said.
One day, Strobel hopes to walk in New York Fashion Week. In the meantime, she is loving her busy life of speaking to students, hanging out with friends, listening to music and watching movies (she loves Bruno Mars and “Harry Potter”).
And modeling continues to fill her with joy.
“I feel like a princess,” she said.