KIRKWOOD, Mo. — Life can be a lot like photography, sometimes you have to adjust your focus.
No one knows that better than Grace Strobel who is modeling for professional photographer Trenna Travis. Travis usually spends a lot of time on lighting but not today.
"She was the light," said Travis. "She was the one who lights up the space."
If honesty, energy and vulnerability are beautiful, then this 22-year-old has it all. She also has down syndrome.
When Grace was born, what the doctors said was both distressing and motivating.
"They said she would not achieve much," recalled Grace's mom Linda Strobel. "Not to expect much from her. That she would probably never read or write."
But even with all their x-ray machines and MRIs the doctors couldn't see Grace's heart. She exceeded all expectations and grew up to understand that different doesn't mean scary.
"Some people stare at me or are afraid of me and that makes me really uncomfortable," exclaimed Grace. "C'mon now, do I look scary to you?"
Hoping to help change perceptions about people with Down syndrome brought Grace to Rockwood Valley Middle School earlier this year.
"There was a situation where some school-age children were making fun of her and it hurt her deeply," remembered Linda.
So, with help from her mom, Grace spent two months researching down syndrome and why people have certain reactions. Then, she spent another five months preparing and rehearsing a talk that she now gives to schools all over the St. Louis area.
"I wonder what you feel like when you see someone that looks a little different," Grace told students.
Part of the presentation are demonstrations on what it's like to have Down syndrome. Even buttoning a shirt, for instance, can be more challenging.
"It's amazing to see the response of the kids," said Grace's mom.
Back at the design studio, Grace is back in the makeup chair.
"I love getting my hair done and makeup," Grace said with a laugh.
Through modeling, she is hoping to take her message of understanding to an even bigger audience.
"It overwhelms me sometimes because I think 'Wow, how did we get here?' You know, it's this beautiful life unfolding," Linda said.
"It makes me feel good inside," said Grace.
One young lady showing what makes us different also makes us beautiful.
Find more information about Grace on her Facebook page.