On my personal Facebook account, I follow my local Down Syndrome organization. If you’re unaware, Down Syndrome is a genetic condition that some people are born with where the individual has an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. People with Down Syndrome typically have cognitive developmental delays and common physical characteristics associated with Down Syndrome. I personally know this all too well because my son was born with Down Syndrome.
While he may be delayed cognitively, I am proud to say that he’s doing well in his kindergarten class. He loves all the things typical 6 year olds love. All we want as parents is for him to be accepted and given the same opportunities that typical children have.
So as I was on my facebook page, I caught an article about Surf Style, a beachwear company in Florida, just hired a new model and he has Down Syndrome. The article is titled, “Beachwear company hires teen with Down syndrome as new face of their brand”. Check out this video from 10News WTSP in Florida, where they introduce Ethan Holt:
As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I think this is wonderful. What does this say about Surf Style Brand? It tells me they care about their diverse community. They’re inclusive. They want their customers to know that no matter who you are, you are accepted. And this sends a message to people with disabilities that they can participate and contribute to society. From 2008 – 2016 people with disabilities made up less than half the work force in the U.S. (see below) and of those with disabilities, 26.3% are cognitive disabilities.
It is great that Surf Style is promoting diversity but I think they have an opportunity to expand their brand further, to really show they care about diversity and inclusion. While browsing products on their web site and their site in general (http://www.surfstyle.com/), I did not recognize any of the models to be Ethan. They do have a link on their home page to a news article stating that they hired Ethan as a model. The same can be said about their Facebook and Twitter presence. I’ve never visited their sites but imagine they’re all exactly the same as prior to hiring Ethan but now have a link and publicity to the article about hiring him. While they mention that their 2020 campaign will feature Ethan, that campaign is not out yet. In the meantime, Surf Style is getting much attention from the Down Syndrome community and advocates of diversity. As this attention rises, the skeptic in me wonders if this is truly who Surf Style is or is this a short term campaign to gain attention and make sales?
Only time will tell if this is everything we hope Surf Style to be. I sure hope so. Even if they’re pulling off a temporary campaign it’s a winning situation for Surf Style and the Down Syndrome community.
Farah R. (2020, January 12). Beachwear company hires teen with Down syndrome as new face of their brand. Retrieved from https://mypositiveoutlooks.com/beachwear-company-hires-teen-with-down-syndrome-as-new-face-of-their-brand/
National Down Syndrome Society (2020, February 18). Down Syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.ndss.org/about-down-syndrome/down-syndrome/
Surf Style (2020, February 18). Surf Style. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/SurfStyle/
Surf Style (2020, February 18). Surf Style. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/surfstylebeach
10News WTSP. (2019, August 2). Beachwear company hires model with Down syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Els71_wT34k
Kraus, L., Lauer, E., Coleman, R., and Houtenville, A. (2018). 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report. Durham,
NH: University of New Hampshire. Retrieved from https://disabilitycompendium.org/sites/default/files/user-uploads/2017_AnnualReport_2017_FINAL.pdf