For their latest ad campaign, Surf Style, a beachwear company in the South Eastern United States, features a model with Down syndrome. Ethan Holt, the modal, is a 16-year-old boy. His great smile and charisma on camera made him the perfect fit for the brand. And if you check out his photos on the Instagram account of Surf Style, you will understand why he won millions of hearts across the internet.
Ethan’s mother, Phoy Holt, said in one interview: “He loves the beach. He’s on the Special Olympics paddleboard team, he’s on the swim team, he’s a water baby.”
Things were not easy when they found out that their baby had Down Syndrome, said the mother: “Of course the not knowing he had Down syndrome surprised us and you go through the emotions of ‘You can’t do this.’ The denial. Then the acceptance. Once we were able to get over that hump of realizing he had Down syndrome, it was difficult at first, but now we’re just along for the ride and he has taken us along for some amazing journeys.”
It is through Help Us Gather (HUG) that the 16-year-old got this opportunity. HUG is a non-profit organization which advocates for the inclusion of people with disabilities. Ethan got the opportunity to work for Surf Style after representatives from the organization worked on pairing him up with the company.
Ethan got the opportunity to work for Surf Style after representatives from the organization worked on pairing him up with the company.
HUG’s founder Robin Lally said: “One in four adults has a disability; there’s not one in four marketing campaigns that features that. Having our friends represented in media and marketing, not only does everyone love it, but they can also be role models for others with special needs, for their families who can look up and say, ‘I can model, I can be a professional, I can do things.”
It is without a doubt that Ethan is a fine example of inclusion on various levels. Tara Malinasky, Surf Style’s marketing manager, shares the same opinion. She said: “We strive to create an atmosphere of inclusion in all of our stores. We hope this sets an example for other brands to feature those with disabilities in their marketing efforts, as well.”