After eight months of being inspired by 17-year-old Collinsville High School junior Karrie Brown, her hometown has named Feb. 24, 2014, “Karrie Brown Day.”
Mayor John Miller will officially make the proclamation at about 7:30 tonight for the girl he said, “has that unique personality that she just glows with friendship.” The brief ceremony will be part of the regularly scheduled City Council meeting in the City Hall Council Chambers.
Brown rocketed to international fame after becoming the first model for the Wet Seal clothing line to have Down Syndrome. Brown has now been the subject of at least 34,000 news stories and blog posts around the world, and her Facebook page fans hail from 46 countries.
The story of how Brown’s rise to fame is inspiring itself. A family friend started a Facebook page at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 13, 2013 devoted to helping Karrie become a Wet Seal model. By noon the following day, someone from Wet Seal had contacted Brown. If Karrie’s page received 10,000 “likes” by Aug. 16, they would have a surprise for her.
The page eclipsed 11,000 “likes” by noon on Aug. 15. The surprise was a trip to California to star in a Wet Seal photo shoot. There are currently more than 28,000 fans of Karrie Brown – Modeling the Future.
The news of Karrie’s Facebook fame and Wet Seal photo shoot first swept the St. Louis area, then spread around the world. Stories have appeared in newspapers across the U.S., in Europe, Asia and South America about the Collinsville girl who does not let Down Syndrome stop her.
It is the tag of being from Collinsville that residents should appreciate, Miller said. “Collinsville didn’t make her the young lady that she is,” Miller said. “But she is adding back to the city with her good will.”
Despite Down Syndrome, Autism and Epilepsy, Brown has received the 2013 Youth of the Year Award from the Collinsville, Maryville, Troy YMCA, been named the 2012 Kohl’s Cares Scholarship winner for Collinsville, competed in the 2013 Illinois Miss Amazing Pageant and has been on the Collinsville High School Honor roll.
Brown’s mother, Sue, might say that the word “despite” does not belong in the previous paragraph. Sue hopes her daughter’s fame and accomplishments have changed the way many people view those with disabilities.
“That’s what this is all about. It’s not about modeling clothes, it’s about modeling an attitude,” Sue said. “Look at the support she has gotten, not only in Collinsville, but internationally.”
Brown’s next appearance as ambassador for that change will be Saturday, in Hollywood. Brown will be attending a pre-Oscars party Saturday, walking the red carpet along with other stars. While in Los Angeles, Brown will be doing another Wet Seal photo shoot.
Sue has seized the opportunity her daughter’s celebrity provided by helping others. She is in the processing of finalizing the Karried Away non-profit organization that will help people with a diagnosed disability find meaningful employment. Brown donates all of the money she makes to Karried Away.
Sue knows that the worldwide news coverage of Brown’s story has made a change in at least one life. A mother of four contacted Sue not long ago to say she had read Brown’s story only two days before being told the fifth child she and her husband were expecting was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
The diagnosis, the mother said, would have been devastating if she had not read Brown’s story. Now, Sue said, she knows it is not the end of the world.
“It’s stories like that that really hit me hard,” Sue said.
Despite the international fame, the local recognition has a special place for both Brown and her mother. For Brown, it is more concrete than just having Facebook followers from 46 countries, Sue said. The honor is also affirmation of acceptance.
“They welcomed us to the community when we moved here 12 years ago,” Sue said. “It’s kind of like having the acceptance of your family.”