DES MOINES, Iowa - It still feels like a dream.
That's how Katie Meade describes seeing herself all over television, the internet, and on what started it all: as the face of Beauty & Pinups new 'Fearless' campaign.
"I feel like, looking at myself, it feels like I'm doing a really good thing for other people with disabilities," Meade said.
Meade, 32, has Down Syndrome. She grew up in Des Moines, and lives here with her parents, Tom and Becky.
"I think she's always had the outgoing personality, and has always been friendly...and confident in herself," Becky Meade said. "Which is maybe the reason they selected her to be the face of the product, 'Fearless.'"
Meade credits a lot of her confidence to how involved she's been since she was young.
“She had an attitude growing up that she wanted to be like her sisters - which really helped, because it gave her an attitude to try things," Tom Meade said.
One group Meade has been involved with for over a decade is Best Buddies International, the world's largest nonprofit organization devoted to providing opportunities of friendship, employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In fact, Meade's involvement with Best Buddies has earned her some star-studded friends, from New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, to actor Rob Lowe.
Now, Meade is arguably a celebrity in her own right; her involvement with Best Buddies opened the door for the group's partner, Beauty & Pinups, to make her the face of its new campaign for "Fearless Hair Rescue Treatment," a product designed to soften damaged hair.
“I was surprised, but I also was blessed," Meade said. "I felt like I’m doing a really good thing for other people."
Meade's new gig makes her the first woman in history with Down Syndrome to be the face of a national beauty campaign. That honor has earned her a multitude of national television and magazine interviews. And with nearly 400,000 people living with Down Syndrome in the United States, Meade thinks its about time they're represented.
“It’s awesome when they do come up to me and say, ‘Jeez girl, you inspire me so much,'" she said. "And I just say ‘Thank You,’ because it meant a lot to me.”
Saturday night, Meade is getting dolled up for the Best Buddies Ball in West Des Moines - an annual celebration, but one that has a little something extra to celebrate this year in Meade's success.
“I think it’s a big step forward to actually bring somebody into the beauty industry that’s not just a Victoria’s Secret model," said Alan Russell, a stylist helping Meade look 'glam' for her big night. "Because I think it just helps to show that everybody can be beautiful.”
For Meade, this is an opportunity to inspire others with disabilities to be like her: Fearless.
“And I can tell everybody, this is me, and I’m thrilled to be on this awesome package," she said. “I love to shine. And that’s what I’m doing.”