Chelsea Werner has defied the odds of Down syndrome. Not only is she a four-time Olympic champion, but people recognize her all over the world for her modeling.
“She’s not intimidated by anything or anyone,” Chelsea’s mom, Lisa Werner, told In The Know. “She just does not worry what anyone thinks.”
Lisa said that when Chelsea was born, Lisa and her husband wondered what life was going to be like for their little girl. At the time, there weren’t any great examples of successful people with Down syndrome in the media or on television, so the Werners knew they were going to have to forge their own path.
“You just have to find a passion, find what they like and nourish it,” Lisa explained. After exploring different sports, Chelsea fell in love with gymnastics.
Chelsea’s parents and coaches nurtured Chelsea’s passion for gymnastics and now she’s won every event she’s ever competed in at the national level.
“I feel happy,” Chelsea said about competing at such an elite level. “And proud.”
Chelsea quickly became the type of positive and powerful figure that her parents wish had been around when she was born. “If we would’ve seen something like Chelsea those first few years, it would’ve been reassuring to know, yeah, she could have a good life,” Lisa said.
Chelsea has hung out with other gymnast icons, including Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman — women Chelsea looked up to who have now welcomed Chelsea into their world.
But Chelsea isn’t one to limit herself. After accepting an offer to try modeling for the first time, it became apparent that Chelsea was also a natural at working with the camera — but no modeling agencies would take her, telling Lisa that there just wasn’t a market for a model with a disability or Down syndrome.
Years later, a viral video of Chelsea’s gymnastics routine caught the eye of We Speak Model Management.
“It’s still extremely rare to see a model with a disability,” Lisa said. “We are still fighting that on a constant basis. There are some people who are open to it, some designers, but overall it’s still kind of a roadblock we’re hoping to break down.”
With Chelsea’s international exposure, both as an impressive athlete and model, people started to take notice. Chelsea and Lisa hope that other young people with Down syndrome or disabilities see the positivity surrounding Chelsea’s career, inspiring them to overcome their roadblocks too.
“She’s challenging the norm and I’m very proud she’s part of this,” said Lisa.
Watch the full episode of Chelsea Werner’s In The Know: Profile above.
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