You might recognize Jamie Brewer from American Horror Story, in which she’s had a recurring role since 2011. But the 30-year-old actress broke another barrier Thursday, becoming the first model with Down syndrome to walk during New York’s Fashion Week.
Brewer modeled as part of Carrie Hammer’s “Role Models Not Runway Models” campaign, wearing an original design by Hammer.
“There’s a woman named Katie Driscoll,” Brewer tells PEOPLE a few hours after her history-making walk, “who has a campaign called ‘Changing the Trace of Beauty.’ She wrote a letter to Carrie congratulating her on 2014 New York Fashion Week show that included a woman named Danielle Sheypuk.”
“Danielle was one of the first-ever models to appear on the NYFW runway in a wheelchair,” Brewer continues. “And Katie asked Carrie if she could have a role model for her daughter Grace, who was around 4 or 5 years old, who has Down syndrome. And Katie knew of my work – my acting work and my work with people with disabilities – and she told Carrie about who I am, and that’s how I got the honor of being involved with Fashion Week.”
Brewer says she’s always been interested in fashion, “in a way,” drawn to it in part, she says, by the costumes on American Horror Story. She describes her personal style as “anything that shows my personality, from edgy to glitzy.”
Was she nervous going into her runway walk? “I thought I was going to be, but honestly, I just channeled it into excitement,” Brewer says.
For preparation, she says, one of the other models involved in the event Thursday “opened up her place for all the models to meet and get to know each other and also learn the walk,” which she says “depends on your mood when you’re tired, ecstatic, you have a certain walk. It’s a vibe.”
Asked for advice now that she’s on the other side of a successful runway career, Brewer pauses for a minute and says, “Be true to your heart … put your whole heart and soul into it, and then whatever you do, it will shine through.”
“There are many role models I’ve been around, and kind of the biggest one – there’s a show called Push Girls, with all women in wheelchairs, and they’re all really good friends of mine,” she says. “And one, Angela Rockwood, is still modeling, in a wheelchair. After a car accident. That was her career before she was in a wheelchair, and she’s still modeling – she’s a huge inspiration to me.”
She continues: “I’m advocating for many other people with my time here [at Fashion Week]. And I’m sure they’ll agree with me: Listen to your own heart. We are one and the same. Our hearts beat as one. If we put our hearts into it – the fashion industry, any industry – our lives will be changed in the process and the world will be changed as well.”