CHESTERFIELD, Mo. – A Chesterfield native is the first American model with Down syndrome to represent a skincare line.
Grace Strobel, 24, is the new face of the worldwide brand Obagi, who is leading the way for “skinclusion.”
“People with disabilities are not represented and so I wrote a letter to the president, Jaime Castle, and I said, would you consider Grace as one of your models, We have this huge population of people with disabilities that are often very invisible and they want to be seen, they want to be heard, they want to be represented as part of the population,” Grace’s mom Linda Strobel said.
That letter couldn’t have received a more positive response.
“When she got the letter, she was ecstatic. She walked down the hall and told everybody, we want this girl,” Linda said.
Grace has only been modeling for two years and the idea came while she was researching how to be an advocate for people with disabilities in a different way.
“When I was researching for Grace Effect I saw another girl with Down syndrome and she was a model too, so I asked my mom if I could be a model and she said I don’t see why not,” Grace said.
Alivia was the first brand Grace started working with. So far, she’s done two shoots for them and it seems like a perfect fit.
“They take the creative expressions from people with disabilities and in this case, their first three capsules were taken from people with autism and their art designs. They took their art designs and put them into the design for the clothing,” Linda said.
Grace’s family has fully supported her modeling career from the beginning. Grace’s sister Laine Strobel, 22, would walk around her college campus at the University of Alabama and brag about her sister.
“When the first set of pictures came out I would walk around my sorority and everybody at school and be like this is my sister, look at my sister,” Laine said.
Grace has accomplished a lot in her two years as a model. She’s walked the runway in St. Louis, Atlantic City and virtually in Runway of Dreams which is a part of New York Fashion Week.
People from all over the world watched Grace model Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive as she made her own runway at the Muny.
She was even asked to help in a webinar to teach LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton about people with disabilities. The webinar was with the 500 different brand managers that fall under LVMH. They spoke about inclusion, diversity, employment and marketing to and for individuals with varying abilities.
That wasn’t the first time Grace has educated people on inclusion.
In 2017 Grace had a run-in with a bully and so she and Linda decided to create a presentation to help people understand people with disabilities better. They named the presentation the Grace Effect. The 45-minute presentation debuted at Rockwood Valley middle school in October 2017.
“It teaches kids about struggles, kindness, about respect, one’s own value and we put role-playing in it, we put videos in it. it was very interactive. we just wanted to teach the kids what it’s like to be a day in the life of someone like Grace,” Linda said.
Grace said the role-playing is her favorite part of the presentation.
The Grace Effect also covers low tone, fine motor skills, balance and vision. The presentation participants do exercises that simulate how someone with Down syndrome experiences these skills.
“It was a huge hit, people and students really connected with her because this was a story coming from her and not from me,” Linda said.
Grace’s dad, Jeff Strobel, appreciates all of the kindness people have shown Grace and the entire Strobel family.
“We get people that are so interested and see what Grace is trying to do that they want to help make a difference as well,” Jeff said. “Everything that Grace and Linda have been able to achieve, not only did they build on what came from parents and families before us but then we’ve had so many outside people step in to say, you guys are doing it right, how can I help you?”