Vogue model Ellie Goldstein: ‘Doctors said I wouldn’t walk or talk’

9 hours ago
About sharing

Ellie always wanted to be a model but says she did not see anyone who looked like her on magazine covers

When Ellie Goldstein was born in December 2001, doctors said she would never be able to walk or talk due to having Down’s syndrome.

She soon proved them wrong. Ellie went on to make history as the first model with the condition to feature on the front cover of Vogue.

Now aged 22, she has just bought her own home in Essex and recently published a book about her life, called Against All Odds.

Here, in their own words, the model and her mother Yvonne explain how Ellie has been defying expectations since the day she was born.

Yvonne’s story

Ellie was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome at birth and her parents were told she needed heart surgery

When Ellie was born, we were shocked to learn she had Down’s syndrome. The doctors said she would never walk or talk and a nurse suggested we might want to leave her at the hospital. I struggled to accept her diagnosis and bond with her.

We were told Ellie needed heart surgery so I was really nervous about getting close to her. When she was five months old, she had a 10-hour operation to close holes in her heart. She spent 10 days in intensive care and another week in the high dependency unit.

After three weeks, we were able to take her home and her cheeky and determined personality began to shine through. My husband and I decided to bring her up as Ellie first and put the fact that she has got Down’s syndrome to one side.

Ellie’s picture became the most-liked post on Gucci Beauty’s Instagram account

Despite what the doctors said, she could walk by 18 months, was speaking by her third birthday and was able to read by the time she started school. Ellie stayed in mainstream education until it came to doing her exams and we moved her to a specialist school.

When she was a teenager, we decided to tell Ellie that she had Down’s syndrome. We were nervous about her reaction and showed her a special book but she kept saying, “I don’t look like that. I’m me.” I was worried it would knock her confidence, but it didn’t.

Yvonne says Ellie has always had a love of reading and she has got a good memory, which is great for learning monologues and scripts at her perfoming arts college

One day my friend told me about a new talent agency called Zebedee, which wanted to work with people with disabilities and visible differences, so I decided to apply for Ellie.

Not long after joining, Ellie was chosen to star in Superdrug’s Christmas advert in 2018. Her career really took off from there. My mum always used to say, “She’s definitely going to be someone one day.” She is very headstrong and feisty but that’s what makes her Ellie.

Ellie Goldstein has been modelling for five years

Ellie still really shocks me, she just loves the camera and the attention, I can just see how much she enjoys it and loves it and that makes it all worthwhile.

Ellie recently bought her own home with the proceeds from her modelling but we don’t know if she will ever be able to live alone. We are living alongside her for now, though we have kept our family home, and we are trying to encourage her to be more independent but she is still very vulnerable.

We have to prepare her for how she will cope one day when we’re not around. Her older sister Amy will obviously look out for her but we would never put that full responsibility on her.

I hope attitudes towards Down’s syndrome have changed since Ellie was born but there is still a lot of ignorance. Often in the street, people ask me questions about Ellie and don’t address her. They don’t realise she can talk and how big a personality she has.

Ellie’s story

Ellie modelled for the adaptive clothing brans Unhidden during London Fashion Week

I always wanted to be a model but I didn’t see anyone who looked like me on magazine covers so I wasn’t sure if I could do it but now I am living my dream.

I didn’t realise I would be famous one day but I have so much fun dressing up and wearing beautiful dresses. I did three catwalks at London Fashion Week this year and they were brilliant.

Looking back at this year, there have been so many good things, but the best bit was probably when my book was published. I was so proud and really excited. I thought, “Wow it’s my own book, I can actually read it.”

This year I have also been filming for a Channel 4 documentary all about my agency, which is going on TV next year, I can’t wait to watch it.

I’m in my last year of performing arts college now and I really want to carry on modelling and acting when I leave. I never get nervous. I’m very confident and very cheeky.

Ellie made history as the first person with Down’s syndrome to feature on the cover of Vogue

When I did the Vogue shoot, I didn’t know if my photo was going to be on the cover. My favourite teachers were there when I found out, I was at college, and I was crying and screaming. My friends said “we love you” and “we are proud of you” and “well done”.

The first Barbie with Down’s syndrome came out earlier this year and they asked me to do a photoshoot. I felt honoured and proud. When I saw the doll I thought “Oh my god, I love it.” It was great to see a doll that looks like me.

Ellie said she was honoured and proud to be able to show off the new Barbie doll to the world

My absolute favourite thing in the world is dancing. One day I would love to be on Strictly Come Dancing. I went to watch it being filmed a few weeks ago, but I didn’t want to be in the audience, I wanted to be on the dancefloor!

I’ve just bought a new house and I can’t wait for Christmas. I love spending time with my nephew who is two and opening lots of presents. I love being his aunty and I give him lots of cuddles.

I am proving people wrong and I am a role model for people like me. Doctors said I wouldn’t talk but now I never stop talking! You should always believe in yourself.

One day I want to model in New York on a red carpet and on a catwalk.

Never give up on your hopes and dreams, be who you are and always be happy. Just go out there and rock it.

As told to Charlie Jones, BBC News

Follow East of England news on Facebook, Instagram and X. Got a story? Email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk or WhatsApp 0800 169 1830

Related Topics

More on this story

25 October 2020
21 April
25 April
25 April