CHESTERFIELD, Mo. (KTVI) — A Missouri 24-year-old has become the first American model with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line.
Grace Strobel, a Chesterfield native, is the new face of the worldwide brand Obagi, which promotes “skinclusion.”
“People with disabilities are not represented, and so I wrote a letter to the president, Jaime Castle, and I said, ‘Would you consider Grace as one of your models?'” said Strobel’s mom, Linda Strobel. “We have this huge population of people with disabilities that are often very invisible, and they want to be seen, they want to be heard, they want to be represented as part of the population.”
The letter received a positive response from Castle.
“When she got the letter, she was ecstatic. She walked down the hall and told everybody, ‘We want this girl,'” Linda Strobel said.
Grace Strobel has only been modeling for two years, and the idea came while she was researching how to be an advocate for people with disabilities in a different way — now called the Grace Effect.
“When I was researching for Grace Effect, I saw another girl with Down syndrome and she was a model too, so I asked my mom if I could be a model, and she said, ‘I don’t see why not,'” she said.
Alivia was the first brand she worked with, and so far, she’s done two shoots for them.
“They take the creative expressions from people with disabilities, and in this case, their first three capsules were taken from people with autism and their art designs. They took their art designs and put them into the design for the clothing,” Linda Strobel said.
Grace Strobel’s family has fully supported her modeling career from the beginning. Grace’s sister, Laine Strobel, 22, would walk around her college campus at the University of Alabama and brag about her sister.
“When the first set of pictures came out, I would walk around my sorority and everybody at school and be like, ‘This is my sister, look at my sister,’” Laine Strobel said.
In her two years as a model, Grace Strobel has walked the runway in St. Louis, Atlantic City and virtually in Runway of Dreams, which is part of New York Fashion Week.
People from all over the world watched her model Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive as she made her own runway at the Muny.
She was even asked to help in a webinar to teach LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton about people with disabilities. The webinar was with the 500 different brand managers that fall under LVMH. They spoke about inclusion, diversity, employment and marketing to and for individuals with varying abilities.
The Grace Effect began in 2017, after a run-in with a bully. Grace Strobel and her mother created a 45-minute presentation to help people better understand people with disabilities.
“It teaches kids about struggles, kindness, about respect, one’s own value and we put role-playing in it, we put videos in it. It was very interactive. We just wanted to teach the kids what it’s like to be a day in the life of someone like Grace,” Linda Strobel said.
Grace Strobel said the role-playing is her favorite part of the presentation.
The Grace Effect also covers low tone, fine motor skills, balance and vision. The presentation participants do exercises that simulate how someone with Down syndrome experiences these skills.
“It was a huge hit. People and students really connected with her because this was a story coming from her and not from me,” Linda Strobel said.
Grace Strobel’s dad, Jeff Strobel, appreciates all of the kindness people have shown his daughter and the entire Strobel family.
“We get people that are so interested and see what Grace is trying to do that they want to help make a difference as well,” he said. “Everything that Grace and Linda have been able to achieve, not only did they build on what came from parents and families before us, but then we’ve had so many outside people step in to say, ‘You guys are doing it right. How can I help you?'”