Meet Holly Greenhow, one of the popular British clothing brand Boden's newest child models. The giggly seven-year-old has blonde hair the color of a soft, baby chick and a sunshine-y smile. Like many little girls, she loves dressing up. What's unique about Holly is that she's the company's first model with cerebral palsy, which was caused by prolonged oxygen deprivation at birth.
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It was initially Holly's grandmother who suggested that her mother, Fiona, bring her to a casting call for Boden-one of the girl's favorite clothing brands. "Not many children with disabilities have the opportunities that other children have," her mother, Fiona, told ITV News. "I wanted to show that you don't have to be perfect to be in a magazine or online or in photographs, so that was my desire to push forward and get it done for Holly." It took two years to nab an audition, but this summer, Holly was invited to a casting session and chosen to participate in the latest online catalog. She and her mother travelled from their home in Cambridgeshire to London where she spent a day trying on clothing and clowning around with the other kids being photographed. Zena Both, the photo studio and model manager, told the Daily Mail she was "delighted that Holly made the cut." She added that, "Holly was charming and we're very pleased with the shoot."
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Holly attends a mainstream school along with her 10-year-old brother, Oliver. She needs a wheelchair to get around and, while she understands everything said to her, she's just started to be able to speak with an eye-controlled computer-similar to the one used by physicist Stephen Hawking. In a Q&A posted on Boden's blog, the young model said the funniest person she knows is her "Mummy," if she ruled the world she would play all day, and that the silliest thing she's ever done is take a bath with her clothes on.
In 2012, the British brand Marks and Spencer's launched the career of 4-year-old Seb White, a boy with Down Syndrome, after he appeared in their Christmas ad campaign, and Holly's dad, Paul, said he was hopeful her Boden stint might lead to other opportunities. In the United States, a small handful of television programs such as "Glee" are notable for starring young characters with disabilities, and a 2012 Target catalog featured a boy with Down's Syndrome. But generally speaking, people with disabilities are nearly invisible in the mainstream media. According to the US Census, about 12 percent of Americans are living with disabilities, while the organization Inclusion in the Arts and Media of People with Disabilities reports that less than one percent of the regular characters on television are portrayed as having disabilities. While Holly is just one cute and spunky little girl, Boden's choice to feature her may help chip away at the prejudice and stigma disabled kids still face every day. "I hope it will help the image of disabled children," said her mother. "And also open people's eyes to the fact there are lots of children out there who aren't perfect."
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