This 2-year-old with Down syndrome is breaking down stereotypes around child modeling.
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A&E Born This Way

Tiffany Stafford was flipping through a catalog when she saw a Target advertisement that floored her.

Her two sons, ages 6 and 8, immediately pointed out the model, saying “Mom, she looks just like Sissy!"

Tiffany had never seen something like this before: The child model had Down syndrome, just like her 2-year-old daughter Ellie.


Tiffany's crew (from left): Luke, Ellie, and Will. All photos via Tiffany Stafford, used with permission.

Then she started thinking about Ellie. She's friendly; she's playful; she loves to show off her favorite poses — the idea made sense.

After giving it some thought, Tiffany sent in photos of Ellie to modeling agencies, thinking, “It's worth a shot."

She reached out to agents near Aurora, Oregon, where she lives, and ended up connecting with an agent and ultimately getting Ellie signed to a modeling agency for print publications.

She was excited about the modeling idea for several reasons. First, she knew that Ellie loved being in front of the camera. But, second, and just as important, she believed Ellie would inspire children with disabilities and their parents.

In August 2015, Ellie booked her first campaign for Hooray Haroo, a children's clothing brand based in Portland, Oregon.

“Ellie is such a natural," Tiffany said. “She has some go-to poses like pushing her shoulder up, or putting her finger to her cheek ... we call that her 'model pose.'"

In modeling mode.

One of the best surprises came from the people who saw the advertisements. Tiffany received tons of love from family and friends, and eventually even from media outlets. KGW Portland interviewed her to do a story on Ellie, and a few days later she received a call from a friend that the story had been picked up by USA Today.

Tiffany says a lot of Ellie's success came about after she saw the inspiring work of the nonprofit organization Changing the Face of Beauty.

The group aims to get people of all abilities into mainstream advertisements and media, and they were able to collaborate on a campaign.

Tiffany is an advisory board member of the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network and has recently joined forces with Changing the Face of Beauty to launch the campaign “Who's Next?" which encourages individuals with disabilities and their families to call out retailers and suggest they be more inclusive in their advertisements.

The less-serious side of modeling.

Tiffany doesn't want to push Ellie into a certain career.

She's not obsessed with the idea of raising a fashion icon (it's fine if Ellie doesn't want to be a model).

But for the moment, she is excited to help battle the stigma around having a developmental disability.

Tiffany's hope?

That the next generation will be even more understanding and loving toward people of all abilities.

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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