THE GOOD NEWS:
Gerber’s decision to choose a child with Down syndrome as its spokesperson is a big step for disability acceptance.
Advertisers know how to use aspirational imagery to sell products and services. They entice people by presenting their conception of the perfect home, the perfect body, or the perfect car. While brands can use this power to prey on insecurities, they can also present inclusive images that broaden ideas of beauty and redefine the meaning of success.
In popular culture, the “Gerber baby” has come to represent the ideal vision of an American infant. The cherubic cheeks, wide eyes, and cowlicked hair have been the trademark of one of America’s most popular brands since 1928. Now, Gerber has made a big step toward expanding the concept of the perfect child by selecting its first Gerber baby with Down syndrome.
Cortney Warren of Dalton, Georgia, entered a contest to find the next Gerber baby by tagging a photo of her son Lucas on Instagram. Out of 140,000 entries, Lucas was chosen to be the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.
“He’s very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” Cortney told Today. “He loves to play, loves to laugh, and loves to make other people laugh.”
“Every year, we choose the baby who best exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby,” CEO and president of Gerber said Bill Partyka said of the contest that began in 2010. “This year, Lucas is the perfect fit.” It was Lucas’s smile and happy expression that earned him the prestigious title.
Lucas’s father, Jason Warren, sees this as an opportunity to make the world more inclusive for children with Down syndrome. “We’re hoping this will impact everyone — that it will shed a little bit of light … and help more individuals with special needs be accepted and not limited,” Jason told Today. “They have the potential to change the world, just like everybody else.”
Lucas has a disability, but his mother doesn’t want that to be the only thing that defines him. “He may have Down syndrome, but he’s always Lucas first,” said Cortney. “He’s got an awesome personality and he goes through the milestones of every child … we’re hoping when he grows up and looks back on this, he’ll be proud of himself and not ashamed of his disability.”
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