Kennedy Walsh and her mother Christina both noticed something while they were shopping or flipping through magazines, all the models are pretty much the same.

“People of different abilities are just not represented enough in the communities throughout the world,” Christina said.

Kennedy, who is 13-years-old, a recent eighth grade graduate of Montana City School and has Down syndrome, wanted to change that.

After some quick searching, Christina found a national campaign called Changing the Face of Beauty on Facebook, and she liked the page.

Founded in 2012, Changing the Face of Beauty is a nonprofit organization that aims to integrate individuals with disabilities in general advertising and media across the world, according to its website. Founder Katie Driscoll set a goal of having 15 companies sign on with the organization throughout 2015. They achieved that number by the end of January, she told the Chicago Tribune.

When Christina found out about the movement, she reached out to Jill Amsk, who runs a photography studio in Helena, about getting some pictures taken.

Amsk knew Christina from when both their children competed in Special Olympics together, and she was immediately on board.

“I just think that maybe kids with special needs are kind of looked past or not included in everything, so it’s just really neat to have them included in something like that,” Amsk said.

So Amsk met with Kennedy and took some pictures. She said Kennedy was great to work with and a generally happy person, despite having typical teenage tendencies.

That first photo shoot was several months ago.

When Christina posted Kennedy’s photo on the International Down Syndrome Coalition Facebook page in late May, it racked up over 18,000 likes, hundreds of comments and several thousand shares.

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Word spread around Montana, and the clothing company My Montana Roots reached out to Christina. My Montana Roots is locally famous for its graphic of the state of Montana with roots stretching out from the bottom of the state.

The Missoula-based company told Christina that they heard about Kennedy after someone posted on their page and they wanted to include her in advertising.

The Poppyseed Boutique in Downtown Helena also recently contacted Christina and has set up a photo shoot time for Kennedy to be used in some of their advertising.

“We had those people jump on board so quickly and it makes me happy to live in Helena to know that we have open minds and support here,” Christina said.

Though the national campaign is titled Changing the Face of Beauty, the Walsh’s prefer to refer to it as See the Beauty in All Abilities.

“They’re beautiful and just as capable as everybody else,” Christina said.

Christina said Kennedy wants to keep modeling and they will keep accepting gigs as long as it’s in Kennedy’s best interest. The dream is to see individuals of all abilities be represented on billboard advertisements by larger retailers and in magazines and movies, Christina said.

Kennedy has modeling cards and a Facebook page and is ready to show the world there is beauty in everybody.

“She’s extremely humble but excited. And not just for her, but for every individual who has a disability, because that’s who we're really representing,” Christina said.

Ed. note: This article was updated at 3:45 p.m. Kennedy Walsh is a graduate of Montana City School, not Helena Middle School.

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Alexander Deedy can be reached at 447-4081 or alexander.deedy@helenair.com


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