Japanese model with Down syndrome fulfills dream at Paris Fashion Week

Japanese model Nao Saito fulfilled a lifelong dream of walking the runway as a model, making her Paris Fashion Week debut.

Known by her stage name, Nao, she was born with Down syndrome, but she didn’t let it hold her ambitions back. The Mainichi Daily reports that he had more than 40 surgeries due to his low muscle tone and complications with his heart and lungs.

This did not deter her, and she trained hard to make it to the runway, telling the media that she often cried because of the physical strain required in her training. That didn’t stop her, and after five years of preparation she premiered as a model in Paris wearing a kimono-inspired red dress featuring gold trim.

“It’s funny. I was nervous,” she said, according to Japan Today. When asked what he wanted to do next, the Shizuoka Prefecture native replied that he wanted to “appear in a show in the United States.”

His mother, Yumi Saito, supported her daughter’s dreams and described crying as her son walked down the runway. “I never thought this was a dream that could be possible,” he told the media.

READ: Girl with Down syndrome takes over the modeling world

The 19-year-old model was able to appear thanks to a sponsorship from Makoto Okubo, who leads a group that promotes the UN sustainable development goals through music.

BNN reports that she walked in international designer Samina Mughal’s show wearing a dress from Miyabi Ikeda’s rental company that took inspiration from a French doll and the traditional Japanese “hina” doll Ikeda says Nao is “so cute.”

Nao previously appeared in Japan’s “Tokyo Girls Collection” but has set her sights on becoming an international model.

Her story is reminiscent of Alexia Rivera’s own journey into the world of modeling, when the Long Islander with Down syndrome appeared in campaigns for Sephora, Kohl’s, and CVS Beauty. She told CBS News at the time, “Girls like me, don’t just limit yourself. Do it.”

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