If you ask 18-month old Lucas Warren about his dreams for the future he will probably say “I don’t know, a clean diaper, more toy dinosaurs and less of that green stuff that comes in the jar?”
But the universe has bigger plans for little Lucas, and if you’ve seen him you’re not surprised because Lucas is no ordinary baby. I mean sure, all babies are cute but Lucas is extra cute. Lucas is “got my first modelling gig before I was two years old, how’s your life going” cute. With his mega-watt grin and corn silk hair Lucas looks fresh off the Adorable Baby assembly line. And he can rock a bow-tie.
What makes Lucas extra special, and what’s behind his recent celebrity, is that he also happens to be the new “Gerber Baby”, and the first one in Gerber’s 91-year history to have Down syndrome.
91 years ago it was 1927. Do you know what was happening in 1927? Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo flight across the Atlantic, work was beginning on Mount Rushmore in Washington (you know, the Presidents carved in rock), and society’s most fashionable women were wearing flapper-style hats that cost $1.98. Women had had the vote for only ten years (in Canada) and Queen Elizabeth was in diapers.
Lucas, you’ve come a long way, baby.
Winning the title of Gerber Baby is tough. Like, Best Actress up against Meryl Streep kind of tough. There have only been eight Gerber babies in the company’s history, and during the recent search 14,000 tots applied for the right to see their face on their food. That’s 14,000 mommies and daddies who did #gerber on social media; and 13,999 mommies and daddies who said “aw shucks” when Lucas was unveiled.
Disability advocates around the world are rejoicing at Lucas’s appointment because of what it might mean for their community and for anyone who is or looks different. There is talk of Lucas using his profile to de-stigmatize Down syndrome and encourage increased acceptance of people with special needs.
Gerber is quick to point out that Lucas’s ascension to the baby model throne is not because of his Down syndrome but because of his “winning smile and joyful expression.”
And when you see him you get it. Looking at Lucas makes you want to smile. Looking at Lucas makes your heart feel like it might be a bit too big for your chest. Looking at Lucas makes you believe in the possibility of a world where people can be judged by the content of their character and nothing else.
When I saw Lucas and read his story I was proud of Gerber and I was proud of Lucas’s parents, Cortney and Jason, for knowing their son had every right to compete for the top prize, that he was without a doubt (over)qualified to become the Kendall Jenner of baby models. They dared to remind Gerber that there is beauty in being different and Gerber responded by deciding there is beauty in doing different.
But you know who we should really be proud of?
Maybe not so much now ‘cause he’s only one and has yet to figure out what being a celebrity and an advocate really means. But like it or not, intentionally or not, Lucas has become both a worldwide symbol of possibility and an everyday reminder about acceptance and love.
Hopefully Lucas doesn’t become the kind of big shot that makes ridiculous demands, like having his Arrowroot cookies served ONLY on heirloom-quality white bone china. But for now he’s just a damn cute baby boy enjoying his well-deserved moment in the sun.
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