When mum Hayley emailed me a photo of her gorgeous daughter Natalia Goleniowski, five, I was smitten – and so was THE SUN newspaper, which today runs this inspirational story.
With a smile to melt the hardest heart, it’s not surprising little Natalia is taking the modelling world by storm.
Yet what is amazing is Natalia, 5 – who goes by the name of Natty – has Downs Syndrome.
When she was born she almost died and parents Hayley and Bob feared she might never learn to walk or talk properly. And aged 2, she underwent heart surgery to close a hole in her heart.
However, she has now been signed up to model the clothes for two prestigious children’s clothes companies.
And as well as wowing the modelling world – other companies are also queuing up to feature Natalia in their campaigns – she has started mainstream school and is now learning to read.
“When Natty was born we didn’t know if she would live, let alone if she would walk or talk properly. So this is a dream come true,” says proud mum Hayley, 42, “but everywhere we go people stop me to say what a gorgeous little girl Natty is. And she just adores being in front of the camera.”
Babywear company JoJo Maman Bebe agrees. “When we saw Natalia’s photos we were bowled over by how pretty she was,” said spokeswoman Alice Treharne, “and we think she will be perfect to model clothes for our 2012 Autumn catalogue.”
Then when Natalia was four and the family were on holiday in Jamaica, they were approached by a photographer.
“She was also on holiday and she asked if she could take some photos of Natty. She was amazed at how photogenic Natty was. Meanwhile, we couldn’t believe how much Natty adored posing for the camera. She loved it.”
In September Natalia reached another milestone the family never thought possible – she started mainstream school.
At the same time Hayley read about Ryan, a boy with Down’s Syndrome, in the US who is now a sought-after model.
“I decided to write to a couple of clothing companies with a snap of Natty. I never thought anything would come of it. But incredibly both of them immediately emailed back inviting Natty to an audition.”
Kurt Jewson co-founder of children’s organic clothing company Frugi says: “We immediately felt Natty had model potential and are now looking forward to featuring her in our next catalogue and online.”
Since then Hayley, who was shocked when Natalia was born with Down’s, has received interest from several other organisations – including holiday companies – requesting to see Natalia for modelling work.
She says: “We are all so proud of Natty. She does shine and it’s wonderful that others see what we do in her.”
Hayley, who also has Mia, 7, said: “I wanted to raise awareness that children with Down’s have their own little personalities and characters and do live a normal life.
“I am so grateful to Alison for getting the story out there and I really hope it helps other families who have a child with Down’s.”
We have already lined up another feature for the family as a double page spread in a glossy women’s weekly mag.
Read more: Hayley’s Blog: Downssideup.com
Hayley came to Featureworld after reading Marie Ideson’s story in the Daily Mail newspaper.
Do you have a special child? Or has your child beaten all the odds? Perhaps your child could be featured in a national newspaper or magazine – or even on TV? We would love to hear your story. Contact us via our specialist story sister site Featureworld.