By Rachel Goldstein Kristen Mascia
August 13, 2012 12:00 PM

Watching her beaming baby make her catwalk debut July 20, Cecilia Elizalde couldn’t contain her butterflies. “The crowd went nuts!” she says of the flashbulbs as Valentina was strutted down the runway on a designer’s hip at a Miami swimwear show. “I’ll never forget it.”

Move over, Gisele: There’s a new mannequin making headlines, only this one has adorably dimpled thighs. Signed as the face of DC Kids, from Spain’s Dolores Cortes, Valentina has become the first tot with Down syndrome to land a campaign for a notable designer. In recent years kids with the condition have appeared in ads for Target, Nordstrom and Toys R Us as the fashion and retail industries strive for greater diversity. “Valentina has a great smile and personality,” says Monica Hillman, the scout who spotted baby pictures Elizalde posted on her Facebook page. “She’s an example of inner beauty, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve with this campaign.”

For Elizalde, a Miami-based Spanish-language TV host, and her book-editor husband, Juan Guerrero, 29, Valentina’s newfound stardom is a fun but nonessential affirmation of the obvious: Their daughter is a beauty. “We found out she had [Down syndrome] after she was born,” Elizalde, 28, says. “It was almost like the baby I had in my head had died. But after we overcame those first few weeks, it has been a dream. She teaches us so much.”