‘When I got the call to be a Vogue cover star I didn’t know whether to scream or cry!’

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‘When I got the call to be a Vogue cover star I didn’t know whether to scream or cry!’

Michelle Rosenberg meets Down’s Syndrome model Ellie Goldstein, who recently graced the cover of fashion bible Vogue.

Ellie Goldstein, Pic: Instagram
Ellie Goldstein, Pic: Instagram

As it’s not every day that I have the honour of interviewing a cover girl, donning a Chanel lipstick seemed only fitting. It was a cosmetic touch that bubbly and irrepressible Ellie Goldstein genuinely appreciated as she spoke to Jewish News from her family home in Barkingside, Essex, where she lives with mum Yvonne, father Mark, sister Amy and nephew Blake.

Ellie, 21, was one of five models to feature in fashion bible Vogue’s ‘Dynamic, Daring and Disabled’ issue last month. In 2020, she broke the Internet after an Instagram post for Gucci Beauty in conjunction with Vogue Italia went viral. Featured as the Italian fashion house’s first Down’s Syndrome model, her picture racked up 800,000 likes – its most-liked post, ever.

Ellie began her modelling career in 2017, signing to the Zebedee talent agency, which largely works with models with disabilities. She has since worked on campaigns for Adidas and Victoria’s Secret and is an ambassador for the learning disability charity Mencap. She’s also doing a four-year course at a local college, focusing on dance and drama.

Ellie on the cover of Vogue

When she got the call about doing the Vogue cover shoot, she “couldn’t contain it and had to scream. And cry,” she says. I observe that doing both at the same time must have been messy. She laughs and agrees.

The day of the shoot, where she featured as the first Vogue cover girl with Down’s Syndrome, was “really good. Fabulous. I was treated like a queen all day. I wore a Gucci dress that I loved. It was a good day.”

The non-stop 10-hour shoot started at 9am. The make-up alone took three hours and there were four outfit changes. But Ellie loves every aspect of doing a modelling shoot. “I love the hair, the makeup, even basic everyday looks. I love the clothes, the camera, posing. And the glamour.”

Ellie with her parents.

Balancing the modelling with studies is a juggling act, but she clearly has a strong, supportive family cheering her on to “keep doing well.”

She recently featured on the cover of art and culture magazine Noctis, for their Game-Changers issue, where she declared: “The only game changer in my life is myself and I”. Also coming soon is the aptly titled Against All Odds book. Available this September, the book is the first in broadcaster Katie Piper’s UnSeen series, championing hope in adversity.

“Against All Odds’ – Ellie’s book

On her status as a Down’s model, Ellie is adamant her community should be represented, and that “diversity education should be out there.”

As for her ultimate modelling dream, it’s an immediate answer: “New York! Please! Like, it’s always been my dream to go to New York. I want to go there to work.”

Ellie’s fashion do’s and don’ts are straightforward: “Keep smiling. Be confident. Be comfy.” Her favourite outfit is a long dress in one of her favourite colours: pink, yellow, silver or grey. It transpires that should she ever have a wardrobe of clothes from any designer, it would be Louis Vuitton. “I would die. Just die,” she declares.

Most recently, she appeared in a campaign to champion the first Barbie doll (#208) with Down’s Syndrome. Manufactured by Mattel as part of its inclusive Barbie Fashionistas line, and in partnership with the National Down’s Syndrome Society, the doll’s dress pattern features butterflies and yellow and blue colours, symbols associated with Down’s syndrome awareness.

The Barbie wears matching ankle foot orthotics, together with a three-chevron necklace – the three copies of the 21st chromosome that result in the characteristics associated with Down’s syndrome. The chevrons, or arrows, represent the ‘Lucky Few’ who have someone with Down’s syndrome in their life.

Ellie on the cover of Noctis.

“I got my face on the Barbie. Yeah!” smiles Ellie, who also confesses to a passionate love of hip-hop dancing.

Her mother Yvonne says “nothing has fazed Ellie at all, one bit. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. She’s doing amazing.”

She believes the launch of the Barbie with Down Syndrome, and Ellie being chosen to launch it “has been a bigger deal than Vogue.”

As to where Ellie’s modelling genes come from, Yvonne says: “Ellie’s very much like her grandma used to be. Very outgoing, confident, doesn’t care what she says. She used to spend a lot of time with my mum. I think it rubbed off. She was always like this. She always said, ‘I wanna be famous’. She just knew what she wanted.

“She’s always treated really, really well at modelling shoots. I just go with her to be there, but she goes off to hair and makeup and I sort her out and then I watch her on set. She’s always treated perfectly. Like a queen. If there’s an issue, Ellie will speak her mind.”

The reaction from the Jewish community to the Vogue cover has been very positive. “So much so,” says Yvonne, “that it’s a challenge to keep up with all the messages she gets, mainly through Instagram. Friends have all been really supportive, too, and the family are all incredibly proud. So it’s been good. Really positive.”

“My advice,” says Ellie, as she holds up the Vogue cover, “is to follow your dreams, to never give up on yourself.  Don’t be scared of the camera, go for it and you’ll smash it.”

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