Tenacious teen is first with Down Syndrome to win international beauty pageant, after being turned down by modelling agencies

This tenacious teenager, who refused to give up on her dream of becoming a model, is the first with Down syndrome to win an international beauty pageant.

When Kate Grant from Cookstown, Northern Ireland, was born doctors warned her mum Deidre that she would never be able to read or speak, since then she’s continued to defy the odds.

After showing a keen interest in clothes and make-up from a young age, Kate revealed her modeling dreams to her mum at the age of 13, but – having experienced the cut-throat nature of the industry herself – Deidre was apprehensive. 


Aware of how ‘cruel society can be’, but determined to raise her children to believe ‘anything is possible’, Deidre agreed – though her worries were quickly justified after modelling agencies continued to reject her daughter’s applications.  

Taking matters into her own hands, Deidre posted a gallery of images of Kate, now 19, on Facebook, citing her daughter’s desire to become a model, which was quickly shared over 26,000 times. 

Eliciting an outpouring of support, the 19-year-old was invited to partake in a number of pageants, including the Ultimate Beauty Queen of the World competition, which celebrates diversity among its applicants. 

Fending-off 40 other competitors, Kate took the top prize in Portadown, Northern Ireland, on July 29th, becoming the first contestant with Down syndrome to win an international beauty pageant.

Immensely proud of her daughter’s determination in the face of adversity, Deidre said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think Kate would win the teen section, as she had already been awarded as an ambassador. 

“I felt as if I had jumped back to when she was born and the doctors informed my husband, John and I of all the negatives of Down syndrome, telling us what she’ll never accomplish. 

“I could visually see Kate in the hospital cradle and said to myself, if only I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have cried or worried like I had.

“Kate was overwhelmed with emotion and excited at the same time.

“She was in shock – she asked her friend to pinch her to see if she was dreaming.


“[When Kate was younger] she’d ask me every day to apply to modelling agencies for her – it broke my heart to see her face every time they replied ‘Not this time.’

“After posting to Facebook it went crazy and I was overwhelmed by the reaction.  

“Her wish was coming true and she was overjoyed. 

“Kate loves to meet with others with special needs and chat to them – she tells them to not let anyone stop them from following their dreams and aspirations. 

“She is a very determined young lady and it’s this determination that has stood by her in the face of adversity.


“Kate is breaking through the barriers and paving the way for the next generation is her awareness raising for special needs.” 

Kate added: “I want to model all over the world and show that beauty comes in all different shapes, sizes and colours.


“There’s not just one look; I’m different and being different is wonderful.”