This 5-Year-Old British Boy with Down Syndrome Is Fighting for Inclusivity in Children's Fashion
"The more these castings happen, the more he won’t stand out, eventually," says his mom Vicky of her son, who is building his modeling career
Frankie Porter is making the world a more inclusive place, one modeling moment at a time.
The five-year-old British boy, who has Down Syndrome, has already landed gigs with major British companies like Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and more after scoring a modeling contract with Zebedee management, an agency that represents diverse models with special needs and abilities.
His latest model moment: Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day on March 21.
“I would like to think times are changing for the better, slowly but surely,” Frankie posted to his Instagram account — via his mother Vicky Porter and father Adam Goswell — on World Down Syndrome Day. “Let’s celebrate our differences today because without them you wouldn’t be you.”
The mini model’s rise to fashion star happened quickly.
In early 2018, Frankie’s mom, Vicky, saw an advertisement for child modeling casting call while attending a support group meeting for parents of children with special needs in their hometown of Wakefield, West Yorkshire in England. Frankie, the youngest of Vicky and Adam’s four children, was in pre-school at the time and decided to go for it. She took a few photos and scooted off to the city of Sheffield, about an hour away, to try their luck.
“It was snowy weather, but we went anyway,” Vicky tells PEOPLE. “We didn’t know how he was going to be around strangers, but he really took to the camera. He loved the attention. Within a few weeks Zebedee had emailed us and said, ‘We’d love to have Frankie on our books.’”
Frankie was in the hospital getting treated for a new Type 1 diabetes diagnosis when he heard the good news. “It was bittersweet, really,” says Vicky. “He had been feeling poorly for a week or so. But then we got the email and we were over the moon. It was so nice to have something positive to focus on.”
So far, Vicky says that Frankie really enjoys the world of modeling.
“Frankie is sometimes the only one with special needs when we go on these castings, and then he gets the jobs because he’s what they’re looking for and his own merit,” says Vicky. “He’s good at what he does, and not because he’s disabled or different.”
When they go to London to shoot campaigns, it’s a two-and-a-half hour train ride from their hometown. “It’s great for Frankie,” says Vicky, “and for the other children who get to learn from him.”
Ultimately, Vicky wants Frankie’s modeling to help show people he’s just like every other boy.
“You always worry whether people will see his disability first,” says Vicky. “But I don’t want people to put him in those boxes and label him. He’s very capable. He’s really sociable. He’s funny. He’s loving. I want people to see he’s actually able. It might take him longer to get to certain milestones, but he gets there. And that means all the more because it’s taken him longer.”
Overall, she calls his participation in the modeling world “a slow but gradual movement.”
“I am recognizing quite a lot more people with disabilities in advertisements,” says Vicky. “Frankie and the other Zebedee models are breaking down barriers. I want it to go more worldwide. The more these castings happen, the more he won’t stand out, eventually.”
“For me, I want Frankie to see people who are like him with Down syndrome, or all disabilities, are out there working and doing what everybody does,” says Vicky. “If he didn’t see that, it would be sad that he didn’t see other people who look like him or are like him. That’s what I want for him. I want him to be able to you know, look around, and not feel like he’s the only one.
“But I think it still has a long way to go.”