champion gymnast with down syndrome
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
December 16, 2023 ·  3 min read

Champion Gymnast With Down Syndrome Becomes A Model, Paving The Way For Others Like Her

Everyone is born with their unique striking beauty. 25-year-old Chelsea Werner from Danville, California was born with Down syndrome, the most common chromosomal defect (1 in 700 babies) that delays physiological and intellectual development. Chelsea was introduced to gymnastics at the age of four to help her develop strong muscles because most people with Down syndrome suffer from low muscle strength. Chelsea showed remarkable gymnastic talent and later went on to win four Olympic championships in gymnastics.

Chelsea has now been recruited as a model by We Speak, an international fashion agency aimed at encouraging people to love their bodies and never be shamed by the way they are.

Werner hopes to be a voice for people born with Down syndrome

Chelsea feels that people with Down syndrome are under-represented in a lot of areas, including the fashion world. In an email she sent to, she stated: “I don’t think people with Down syndrome are represented enough. The more we are represented, the more people will see how capable we are.”

She believes the fashion industries need to understand that the world is inspired by the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome. She won the Special Olympics US championships in gymnastics four times. She scooped up the title of Defending World Champion twice. Chelsea believes that she has gained confidence and learned resilience from her gymnastic life.

“I’ve been doing gymnastics for as long as I can remember,” she told A plus. “I feel like it’s always been a part of my life, I think gymnastics has trained me to be disciplined and to work hard. In gymnastics, each new skill takes a very long time – sometimes years! I think it has given me confidence.”

Her discovery by We Speak

Chelsea’s applications to several fashion agencies were always turned down. The reason was that people with Down syndrome simply had no place in the modeling world. Chelsea and her parents, Lisa and Ray Werner never backed down and kept pushing. They believed in their daughter’s overwhelming beauty and capability, and they weren’t deterred by the initial rejections.

Chelsea was discovered on social media by the We Speak model scouts in late 2017, and she’s been doing remarkably well in the industry ever since.  In an interview with A plus, CEO and founder of We Speak, Briauna Mariah, revealed how immediately riveted she was by Chelsea’s remarkable condition. Briauna believed she was going to do excellently well in the fashion world. “I saw Chelsea’s potential to thrive in this industry and immediately reached out. It’s important that women feel represented in the industry.”

Chelsea’s incredible progress

Chelsea has received global recognition and admiration from all her social media platforms. People can’t get enough of her, and her fans are always edging to see more of her photo shoots.

Chelsea says she hopes her modeling career will serve as a source of inspiration to other people out there, because “everyone is beautiful in their own way.” She believes that regardless of the condition anybody was born in, they deserve to be given an opportunity to reach their dreams.

On how it has been working with Chelsea, Mariah told A Plus how “absolutely wonderful” it has been. She said: “Chelsea takes feedback really well and is a quick learner.

Right now we’re building her experience in front of the camera, building her portfolio and brand. Soon I believe the industry will be just as captivated by Chelsea’s beauty as I am. I see her going far.” Chelsea says that when most parents see her aiming high and climbing higher, in both gymnastics and modeling, they push their children to toe in her footsteps.

People who come in contact with her always tell themselves they can do more. Things they thought they couldn’t do, they could surpass it even, only if they tried. The likes of Chelsea Werner and Madeline Stuart are breaking grounds in the fashion world, paving the way for people with all kinds of disabilities to see that they are capable. Thumbs up to them!

Keep Reading: Proud dad celebrates daughter with Down syndrome who just graduated from college – congratulations

  1. ‘Chelsea Werner’ Chelsea World Champion
  2. ‘From Special Olympian To High Fashion Model, Chelsea Werner Defies All Down Syndrome Stereotypes’ Forbes Lela London. Published February 5, 2019
  3. ‘Welcome to DSE’ DSE