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Down Syndrome Advocate Abigail Adams Is Empowering Others Through Makeup

Abigail Adams

At age 22, Abigail Adams has already walked the runway in New York Fashion Week, performed as a cheerleader in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and given an ESPN-featured keynote at the USA Special Olympics Summer Games. Now, the Florida-based superstar has launched Shimma—a line of cruelty-free cosmetics and sportswear—with the tagline “When you want to look your best, don’t just sparkle, Shimma!”

“I love makeup,” she says, “and I want to let everyone know that they are truly beautiful inside and out.” To that end, Adams—who goes by Abigail the Advocate to over one million followers on social media—creates videos with sassy snippets of advice on how to properly apply lip gloss (“When you put on your lip gloss, always go with an ‘M’ shape”) and why you never want to pull down the skin below your eye when applying liner because “that’s how you create wrinkles.”

Adams was born with Down syndrome, diagnosed with “failure to thrive,” and outfitted with a feeding tube. As a toddler, she learned to walk and speak later than her peers. Through careful attention to diet and exercise, she became the first woman with this particular intellectual disability to complete a sanctioned sprint triathlon. Her social media feeds include triathlon training tips, as well. “I want to make my voice heard so I can show people who I really am,” she explains.

Abigail Adams

Over the past five years, people around the world have witnessed who Abigail Adams really is. In 2018, she walked in New York Fashion Week in a vivid purple ensemble designed by Elizabeth Tran of Teens Go Green. She’s modeled in a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, appeared in a Disney commercial, and helped raise thousands of dollars for charity.

In March 2022, she launched Shimma. Many of the products in her makeup line incorporate subtle glitter. There’s talc-free eyeshadow with glitter, lipgloss with kaleidoscopic pearls, and “stardust glitter” to glamorize your body, lips, nails, and eyes. Ask Adams what the word “shimmer” means to her, and she throws out her arms and strikes an elegant pose. “It means that if you want to be happy, let your wings spread out,” she explains. “It’s time for you to sparkle!”

Her signature sportswear features multicolored paisley prints, with the decorative “Shimma” logo worked into the design. The brand also creates custom watch bands, phone cases, and sneakers. Adams is the model for some of the products on her website, flashing her radiant smile while stretched out on a yellow paisley beach towel and showing off a one-piece racing swimsuit. “Wearing these clothes makes me feel powerful and happy in myself,” she says.

Abigail Adams

Adams isn’t the first person with Down syndrome to work as a professional model. In 2015, American Horror Story actress Jamie Brewer became the first person with the intellectual disability to walk at New York Fashion Week. And Australian model Madeline Stuart has modeled in dozens of international and national fashion weeks and fundraisers. She’s also not the only person with Down syndrome to launch a business; Nate Simon from 21 Pineapples offers a line of Hawaiian shirts and tees out of Chicago, while Julia Tyler from Dance Happy Designs silkscreens her art on handmade tote bags and pillows with the help of two friends in Philadelphia.

But Adams’ brand is less about selling her products and more about empowering others to succeed—especially when they’ve been told, like some of her disabled peers, that they have limitations. In line with this mission, Adams donates a portion of all sales proceeds to organizations supporting people with special needs. “The purpose of life is to make things better,” she says in a recent TikTok video.  While pointing to the camera with a whimsical frown and then a smile, she exclaims, “You can do it!”

Her long-term dreams are to become an actress in Los Angeles and a science teacher. For now, she lives with her parents in Florida, where she fills orders for Shimma, hangs out with her boyfriend, and swims and cycles and runs in preparation for her next triathlon. Frequently, organizations hire her to give presentations advocating both for people with Down syndrome and for young athletes in general. She’s spoken to the International Cheer Union, where she helped influence the acceptance of Special Olympics cheerleaders to be included in their worldwide competitions. In July, Google hired her to visit their North Carolina office as a motivational speaker.

Adams is a natural on stage. At her keynote for Special Olympics USA Games in June, she strode up on stage with her blond hair flowing down the back of her bright red shirt and addressed the crowd in the stands and watching on their screens around the world. “When you refuse to give up, you send a message to every village, every city, every nation—a message of hope, a message of victory!” she cried. Then, she flashed a shimmering smile at the audience. “Never give up.”

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