Meagan Nash thought her son, Asher, belonged in magazines.
"I wanted to submit him because he always seemed to like having his picture taken," Nash said. "Anytime I get my phone out, his eyes get big, and he gets this big grin on his face, almost like he knows what's happening."
Nash sent Asher's pictures to a local talent agent that was casting a campaign for the baby brand Carter's.
She was confused when the agent refused to submit them.
Asher has Down syndrome, and Carter's, the agent explained, wasn't calling in children with special needs.
Nash insisted. Yes, the company hadn't specified that they were looking for kids with disabilities, but Asher's pictures were good, and Carter's hadn't said they weren't looking for kids like him.
"My first reaction was he should get the same chance to be accepted or rejected as any other baby," she said.
The agent apologized and agreed to send the photos.
For months, Nash heard nothing. Frustrated, she contacted Changing the Face of Beauty, an organization that works to increase representation of people with disabilities in media and advertising.
Her contact there encouraged her to post Asher's photos online as part of the group's annual campaign.
"The talent industry, first of all, rarely represents people with disabilities, and when they do, they don’t always present because they don’t look at them as 'brown hair, blue eyes child'; they look at them as a disabled child," Katie Driscoll, Changing the Face of Beauty's founder and president, said.
Nash's post with Asher's photos was shared over 126,000 times. A story about the mother and son's campaign appeared on The Mighty.
According to Nash, representatives from OshKosh B'Gosh — a company affiliated with Carter's — messaged her less than an hour after the article was posted.
"They wanted to talk and hear my concerns, so I went over everything from the beginning and told them how it all started," Nash said. "At the end of our conversation, we had set a date for us to come in to meet with them."
She and Asher met with representatives from OshKosh recently, and they invited Asher to participate in an upcoming holiday advertising shoot, according to a statement provided by the company.
In the meantime, thanks to the publicity generated by the post, he's already done a shoot for Oball toys — his favorites.
Driscoll explained that while featuring kids like Asher in print ads might seem like a small thing, it can have concrete effects beyond simple representation.
"It also shows retailers and employers that, hey, obviously we’re valuing this community in advertising, we’re speaking to them as consumers, why wouldn’t we consider them for a job?" she said.
For Nash, getting the OshKosh shoot is a victory — a step closer to a world in which her son's talents are evaluated like any other kids' — independent of his disability.
For Asher, the photo shoot is another chance to show off his million-dollar smile.
And cash his first paycheck.