#MAKEITHAPPENGrace Strobel, Model and Advocate
Don't let Grace Strobel's infectious smile fool you. There's a lot of strength and mettle behind her sunny exterior—and that combination is what makes the Missouri native, who was born with Down syndrome, both an inspiration and powerful advocate for people with disabilities.
Today, Strobel is a sought-after model, seen in countless magazines, campaigns and television appearances. But that spot in the klieg lights only came after a moment of deep sorrow when, while working in a school lunchroom in 2017, she was confronted by students who made fun of her disability. "When they laughed at me that day," she recalls, "I felt alone, misunderstood, and hated." The silver lining here: She turned that pain into purpose.
The incident led to the launch of #TheGraceEffect, a presentation Strobel gives to schools about overcoming obstacles, treating people with kindness and respect, and living with a disability. The following year, she tried her hand at modeling—cue more smashing of stereotypes—and set up a photoshoot. It went viral. "Since then I’ve been on this amazing journey," she continues, "changing minds, hearts, and perceptions with all the doors that have opened for me. It has changed my life."
Here, learn more of her beautiful story and discover the inspirations, from faith to flourless muffins, that keep her going.
I’m a model and public speaker.
Sometimes our greatest sorrows become our biggest achievements. In 2017, I was working in a school lunchroom when some of the students started making fun of my disability. When they laughed at me that day I felt alone, misunderstood, and hated. That’s when my mom and I decided we wanted to make a difference. So together we created #TheGraceEffect, a presentation I give to schools about belonging, kindness, and overcoming adversity. I wanted to share with students what it's like to have struggles and I wanted to show how you can change someone's life just by being kind and giving respect. That following year, I decided to try modeling, so we posted my first photoshoot to Facebook, and it went viral. Since then, I’ve been on this amazing journey--changing minds, hearts, and perceptions with all the doors that have opened for me. It has changed my life.
Watercolor painting, praying, and vegging-out on my bed listening to my iPad with bedroom string lights on.
Ask my mom—she knows everything!
Learning how to become a public speaker and stand up for others who might not have a voice. I have a stutter, so learning how to control that while public speaking was a biggie. I also was made fun of because of my disability, so getting up in front of people to talk about that made me feel very vulnerable and exposed. How I overcame that? Constant and chronic practice: I practiced every single day for 8 months before I gave my first 45-minute presentation. Also, parents who never set limits on me and believed I could do it!
how i make it happen
1. My go-to: a chocolate flourless muffin, homemade by yours truly—a little honey, pumpkin and chocolate.
2. Protein. Egg or yogurt with cottage cheese and banana.
3. Drink lots of water.
1. Decide and lay out my clothes the night before.
2. My faith, my family, my friends, and always being socially connected.
3. Forgive those who have done you wrong—they didn’t know it, but they made you strong.
1. To-do list/calendar. I’m lost without it—it keeps me focused and gives me a heads up on planning for the week.
2. Exercise and stay out of your comfort zone. I run 2.5 miles a day and work out with weights.
3. Challenge the status quo and make change.
Jesus and Mary! And let no one set limits on your life.
"When faced with a mountain, I WILL NOT QUIT! I will keep on striving until I climb over, find a pass-through, tunnel underneath, or simply stay and turn the mountain into a gold mine with God's help!" — Robert Schuller. Growing up my mom had this taped to a cupboard door for my sister and me to read frequently.
Favorite wardrobe hack...
Own a great pair of comfortable combat boots—they make your straight-leg jeans come alive.
A slightly sheer feminine blouse—throw on a pair of jeans and you’re gorgeous and ready for anything.
Wearing Veronica Beard makes me feel...
Empowered and beautiful.
I chill-lax listening to my favorite music--Lionel Richie, ABBA, Bruno Mars, Beethoven, and Mozart. They sing to my soul. I’m a huge classical music junkie.
Being with the people I love.
Making people smile.
I admire Chris Nikic--also born with Down syndrome and the first person with DS to complete a Ironman 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run.
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