EXCLUSIVE: Ellie Goldstein, 18, has been the first person with Down’s Syndrome to pose for fashion giant Gucci. She has featured in ad campaigns for Superdrug, Nike and Vodafone
A beaming smile, a confident air... modelling sensation Ellie Goldstein is a girl with a mission. The teenager who was written off by medics at birth is blazing a trail as the first person with Down’s Syndrome to pose for fashion giant Gucci. At 18 she can count singer Nicole Sherzinger, 42, among her fans. She has featured in ad campaigns for Superdrug, Nike and Vodafone. The world of TV and movies is already on Ellie’s radar. And a magazine photoshoot for Vogue Italia has become the luxury brand’s most “liked” Instagram post of all time.
All this from a girl whose joyful disposition is characterized by a childhood picture of her dressed as Snow White. Proof that fairy tales can, as Ellie explains, be a reality. She says: “I’ve never defined myself by my Down’s Syndrome. “I’m Ellie first and I’m glad people are seeing me. It gives me a chance to show people with disabilities that dreams can come true.”
Ellie, from Ilford, Essex, signed with Zebedee Management, an agency that only represents people with disabilities, three years ago. But it is her photo shoot for Mascara L’Obscur from Gucci’s beauty range that has sent her career soaring. Former X Factor judge Nicole posted images of Ellie to her 4.5million fans. The teenager says working with Vogue was incredible – and brought her some luxury freebies. Ellie says: “The photo shoot for Gucci was amazing. “It was in London and took about six hours and it was the best experience ever – having my make-up and hair done and wearing all these expensive beautiful dresses and sparkly jewelry.
“I loved seeing my pictures in Vogue Italia and on Instagram. Gucci let me go into their store and pick out anything I wanted. I got a beautiful floaty dress, shoes, silk headscarf, sparkly headband and a £310 hair clip with crystals that says Gucci. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve been told I’m very professional and I take direction well, which is lovely to hear. "I never get nervous. I think it’s important to be happy every day and to just be myself. I hope people who see my pictures in magazines and on Instagram are inspired to follow their dreams and that having a disability should never get in the way.”
Other stars in the “body positive” Gucci shoot included super-lean Jahmal Baptiste and plus-size Enam Asiama. Ellie’s mum Yvonne, 56, recalls her girl as super-confident from a young age. She says: “I should have known Ellie was destined for the finer things in life when she scrambled out of her buggy in a jewellery shop and disappeared. “Seconds later, we found her chatting to the sales assistant in the ring department. That’s Ellie, she chats to everyone.” The bubbly teen has a cheeky giggle, big personality – and she loves chocolate and Jaffa Cakes.
Now she is a worldwide role model for people with special needs and disabilities. But, like many, her start in life wasn’t easy. Yvonne tells how she was left stunned by the reaction of some medics when Ellie was born. Yvonne says: “She was whisked away for four hours, with no explanation. Eventually the consultant marched in dangling her in his hands and said ‘She has Down’s Syndrome. “She’ll never walk or talk or have a normal life – or go to university. There are leaflets outside’.
“Then he left. He’d already written her off before we’d even held her. We were stunned and shocked by his cold and uncaring attitude. "It was the first time we knew anything about it. My scans had always been fine. Then a nurse came in, took one look at Ellie, and said ‘The last woman who had one of those, left it here.’ We couldn’t believe what we were hearing.” Next day, Ellie was moved to London’s Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. Yvonne, a support worker for young adults with special needs, goes on: “We were told she had holes in her heart and needed surgery before she turned five months old.
"I nearly passed out trying to take it all in. Ellie had nine-hour open heart surgery and was in intensive care for 10 days. It was a terrible time for us all.” But with a loving family around her, the resilient tot grew stronger each year. Soon she was chatting, walking and laughing. At 11, her reading age was 17. And today Ellie is one year into a performing arts qualification at college. While the financial rewards at this stage are modest, Ellie adores modelling. She says: “I’d love to work with more brands, be on the covers of magazines, on telly or in a rom com movie. I love all things girlie – skirts, tops and dresses in pink, purple, green and lilac, make-up and playing with hairstyles. "My bedroom is sparkles and sequins and I’ve pictures on the wall from shoots and adverts. I’d love to go on the Ellen [DeGeneres] Show, stay at the wonderful spa at Penny Hill Park in Surrey, and go shopping for expensive stuff at Selfridges. Oh and one day, I want a kind and good-looking husband with a great personality.” Yvonne, Ellie’s property manager dad Mark, 60, and her sister Amy, 26, are super proud. Yvonne says: “We love her to bits. When I’m on a shoot with her, and they’re all there for our little Ellie, it feels like a dream. "It’s all new for us, but Ellie’s having so much fun. She’s a natural. She loves people and she’s always so positive, chatty and happy. “She asks me: ‘What next?’ She’s raring to go and loves all the dressing up. If anyone one asks, ‘How are you?’ She’ll say with a big smile, ‘Perfect.’ She deserves all the success in the world and we’re right behind her.”