Aleteia

Champion gymnast and model with Down syndrome blazes a new trail

Chelsea Werner
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Chelsea Werner is inspiring people around the world through the happy moments of her life she shares on Instagram.

Phrases such as “Different is beautiful” and “Love yourself” stand out in everything Chelsea Werner writes. The champion gymnast and model with Down syndrome is breaking the mold, overcoming prejudices and fears. She’s a strong young woman who uses both her inspiring example and her powerful gift for communication to encourage society in general, and people with Down Syndrome in particular, to go out into the world and show that there is beauty in diversity.

You can discover Werner’s story through the photographs she publishes on her Instagram account (@showtimewerner).

“Being unique is better than being perfect”

This sentence crowns one of Chelsea’s recent captions on her Instagram account, which she uses to fight for the real integration into society of people with disabilities.

She began to practice gymnastics at age 8. At first, a doctor told her that she couldn’t practice this sport because of her low muscle tone, which is characteristic of people with Down syndrome. But Chelsea discovered that not only was she good at gymnastics, but she also liked to perform in public. Every competition became a great experience of self-improvement and enjoyment for her.

In an interview with Aleteia, Chelsea says that if she could convey one message to all people with Down syndrome it would be “Never give up. Don’t give up on your dreams. The work is hard sometimes, but it’s worth it.”

Her perseverance and constancy in her work define her. These traits have led her to be part of the US National Special Olympics gymnastics team, winning the US Special Olympics National Gymnastics Championship four times, and the Down Syndrome International Championships twice.

Her parents and brother have been her greatest support. They work by her side and have fought tirelessly for Chelsea to achieve her dream of becoming a professional gymnast.

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"World Champion" in Italy 1 year ago😊 #worldchampion

A post shared by Chelsea Werner (@showtimewerner) on

Her coach became another pillar of her career. She knew how to see beyond Chelsea’s disability and treated her like any other athlete, demanding the same commitment and training hours from her.

Chelsea says that one of the things she likes most is to be part of a team—a team made up of gymnasts with and without disabilities, who train together, benefiting from mutual learning.

From gymnast to model

The famous clothing brand, H&M, reached out to Werner after seeing her compete on television. They wanted to hire her as a model for a campaign filmed in Havana, Cuba. In a video for the campaign, she says that gymnastics makes her feel “happy, and proud.”

After the success of her first job as a model, many others followed. Companies such as Tommy Hilfiger and and Target, and publications such as Forbes and Vogue, have turned to her for inclusive campaigns, in which she participates along with models with other types of disabilities.

Like many girls her age, Chelsea, who is 25, enjoys dancing, going out, shopping with her friends, meeting new people and playing other sports like surfing.

Around the world, she’s becoming an example of how barriers of prejudice can be broken and social integration can be achieved in different areas.

The importance of self-esteem

If there’s one thing that stands out about Chelsea, it’s her self-confidence.

Self-esteem is important for anyone, but especially for people with disabilities, so they can successfully overcome the challenges they may encounter along their path. She tells Aleteia that her Instagram account is pure positivism. This is the vision she wants to give to the world: She is a happy young woman with Down syndrome, who enjoys her profession, her family and friends, just like anyone else.

For many people, disabled or not, Chelsea has become an example to follow. She has shown that with sacrifice, effort and self-confidence, dreams can come true.

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