A Florida boy with Down syndrome is helping the public see that people like him are more than their disability.
According to KENS-TV, teenage Ethan Holt is living out his dreams of being famous. His first modeling gig with the beachwear company Surf Style around two years ago garnered enough recognition that Holt landed the opportunity to star in several Advent Health commercials.
But Holt’s recent appearance in a Walmart commercial that aired in February likely increased his notoriety. While the Clearwater teen had starred in local advertisements before, the Walmart “think spring” commercial aired nationwide.
“I love being on camera. It’s a lot of fun,” Holt said. “I do the work. I do all of that. I listen to everybody and do all of that.”
“We went to New York and I was like saying, Mom! Dad! I’m famous!” Holt said.
“You know, now my dreams have come true. I’m famous now!”
During the trip, Holt’s mother happened to notice the non-profit Help Us Gather was offering people free head shots.
The organization works to promote a positive image of individuals with disabilities while also connecting them to community social events and resources.
“I said they’re giving a free headshot and you can wear anything you want,” Holt’s mother said. “So he picks out his three-piece suit, and I’m like are you gonna wear that?”
Despite his mother’s concerns, Holt’s lifelong dream gradually started to come true after he impressed the photographers. Not long after his first photoshoot, opportunities for Holt to showcase his on-camera talent began to roll in.
“He said he was going to be famous one day and on TV and here he is,” Holt’s mother said in a statement to KENS-TV.
For many people, however, Holt’s rising star is about more than the fulfillment of one boy’s dream.
Mike Hernandez, the teenager’s principal at Northeast High School, believes that Holt’s career enables him to positively represent the Down syndrome community.
“He is the perfect person to kind of be the face of inclusion and to be the face of including people with disabilities in everyday ads, you know?” said Hernandez.
“Stepping away from the normality of seeing the cookie-cutter lifestyle. It gives it a sense of reality that there are people with differences in the world and that they should be represented. This is the first step in a long journey for Ethan I think.”
The principal is not the only one to recognize Holt’s potential as a representative, however, as people across the country take note of his story.
In an April 9 statement to The Western Journal, mental health counselor Robin Atkins expressed similar sentiments about the entertainment world’s latest celebrity.
“For far too long children with differences in appearance, ability, or neurological processes have been overlooked and the gifts they bring to our society ignored,” Atkins wrote.
“It is so important for the wide diversity of children of all abilities to see themselves represented and celebrated in our culture.”
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