Why we put this little girl on our cover

We aim for diversity in our photography, which is why we’re featuring this exceptional little girl, who happens to have Down syndrome.

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When moms and dads read Today’s Parent or visit todaysparent.com, we want them to recognize their families in the challenges we tackle and the joys we celebrate in our stories. We also want them to see themselves (or at least a version of themselves) and their children in the images we choose. Media creates and moulds our perception of the world, so what conclusion can a family reach when they rarely see similar people represented? They are invisible, marginalized, forgotten.

Read more: Special needs in the media: Why the neglect?>

We met 18-month-old Reid, who goes by Pip, through our Today’s Parent community when Kingston, Ont. mom Tara McCallan shared her Happy Soul Project blog with us. Happy Soul Project is all about finding beauty in difference. Tara’s journey to this hard-won world view began when Pip was diagnosed with Down syndrome three days after her birth. Already a mom to son Noal, now three, Tara and husband Craig grieved the family they’d imagined. But as they emerged from the darkness, they found happiness surprisingly easy to come by. As Tara explains through her writing, her blog is about “accepting the life fate gave you, seeing the beauty in the challenges and the hope in the hardships. It’s about finding joy unexpectedly, becoming a kinder person and continuing to always have an open mind.”

It’s not hard to fall in love with Pip at first sight (that smile is too much!), but the more we read about her, the deeper we fell. Then we met her. You would never know this kid struggles with heart problems and has been through three eye surgeries. Sitting on our set, clapping her hands and bobbing to Pharrell’s “Happy,” she was the picture of pure glee.

Read more: The gifts of a child with Down syndrome>

Today’s Parent has actually featured a child with Down syndrome on the cover once before, but it has been almost 20 years. We knew the time was right to shine the spotlight on Pip. “To see kids like Pip or other kids with differences in mainstream media is so important,” says Tara. “I want my little girl to open Today’s Parent and see herself. I think it’s really important, not only for Pip but for society as a whole to embrace the love and the differences in everyone.”

And in the end, Pip met all the requirements we have for a cover kid: she’s engaging, easygoing through multiple wardrobe changes and off-the-charts cute. Ditto for big brother, Noal, who was achingly sweet with her, patting her head and giving her those patented preschooler choke-hugs throughout the shoot.

We weren’t the only ones who fell hard for Pip. The day after our shoot in mid-May, a Toronto radio station unveiled a billboard starring Pip at one of the city’s biggest intersections. Happy Soul Project had won the spot in a contest after more than 40,000 votes from listeners. Then, a few weeks later, Tara wrote a blog post for Huffington Post that went viral. Multiple media outlets, including Good Morning America and ABC News, picked up her story.

Pip is ready to take on the world, and the world is clearly ready for her. We’re proud and honoured to be a part of it.

Cover

Look for Pip and Noal on the August cover of Today’s Parent, on iPad July 8 and on newsstands July 21, 2014.

Check out Tara’s Happy Soul Project blog here.

Sasha Emmons is the editor-in-chief of Today’s Parent, Canada’s #1 parenting magazine and media brand. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.

33 comments on “Why we put this little girl on our cover

  1. Truly adorable children. I’m very happy to see them on the cover of this great magazine! :)

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  2. Pip and Noal are beautiful little kids! The only shame in it is that there needs to be an explanation given on why Today’s Parent featured Pip. Why not just aim for diversity without singling her out?

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    • Well said, Kerry. That was my thought when I first saw the headline. Nobody would say anything about having a cute little girl without Downs on the cover; nothing need be said now. To do so just seems like an attempt at self-congratulation (“Look! See how we celebrate diversity!”). Just put an array of adorable children on the cover and let us sit back and admire them ALL without having to focus solely on differences.

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    • My thoughts exactly.

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    • YES!!! it was the first thought that went through my mind!!! I’ve been a mom for almost 11 years & this is the 1st time I recall seeing a child with a disability on the cover, I’d love an explanation for that…

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  3. My heart is busting reading and watching this….Thank you so very much Sasha & Today’s Parent for sharing the beauty in differences and sharing our story…

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  4. Kuddos to you all over at Today’s Parent, I live in the US and was not familiar with your magazine but because of your fabulous choice in models and INCLUSION! I will be subscribing and sharing with all my friends! Please continue to spread your word about that beautiful little girl and how important inclusion is for all! Great job! Hopefully it won’t be another 20 years before we see another almond eyed beauty on our cover! Bravo!

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  5. When Tara talked about meeting the woman in the gift shop and got teary, I remember back to the first years after my Will was born. I started socializing with a group of moms who all had little ones with Down syndrome and we mostly just enjoyed each others company and shared stories. But every time one mother would talk about how much they loved their child and what they meant to her, she got teary and choked up. Anyone from the outside would think they were tears of sorrow, but they never were. I choked up when Tara recalled this meeting. It’s almost like there is too much love to hold inside and some of it has to escape physically, in the form of tears. Thanks to Tara, for her beautiful expressions of Down syndrome and detailing the amazing journey it sets our families on.

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  6. Print lots – this will be a popular issue!

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  7. Tara you are an amazing inspiration for families out there with young children and I don’t mean only families with down syndrome children but an inspiration to all families that struggle through parenthood! The world needed someone like you to help others recognized how special these little ones are. I guess this is why it was your destination. Your awesome!

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  8. Delighted that you have seen fit to portray kids who aren’t normally represented in the media. I volunteer with children with physical disabilities and would like them to see themselves on magazine covers as well. Great cover; great video!

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  9. Well once again this woman is selling her child to the press. What’s in it for Pip? Nothing. She’s a baby. It’s all for mom. She’s media hound and just wants her 15 minutes of fame. I feel bad for her kids being pushed into the limelight like this. You know, she’s not the first person to ever have a child with Down syndrome. Her daughter hasn’t gone through the serious health conditions that other children with Ds have faced–yes, she’s has a few surgeries, but did she have to stay in the hospital for 6 months hoping her child recovered? No, she didn’t. I would rather see someone who has been through a battle be recognized than this woman who hasn’t faced much diversity at all.

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    • It’s unfortunate that you see this as the mother seeking 15 minutes of fame. She is raising awareness for Down Syndrome across the globe and working every day to make this world a better place full of acceptance for those with anything that makes them ‘different’. You think that Pip doesn’t ‘deserve’ a spot on the cover because her struggle wasn’t ‘tough’ enough? You obviously don’t know the details of her story. Pip is a fighter and has gone through so much. If you take the time to read any post, watch any of the other videos, or just learn more about their family, you’ll see that this mother’s heart is in the absolute right place. She is fighting for EVERYONE out there with Down Syndrome, or ANY difference. Your response is ignorant.

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    • Tara’s sentiment is “What makes your different makes your beautiful”. I can’t think of a more inclusive statement. I can’t think of a more positive, lovely message that helps people see the humanity in everyone. If you think you are diminishing Tara or Pip with your opinion, you are wrong. Everyone who reads your post will see someone they should feel sorry for though.

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  10. I look forward to seeing Pips beautiful face everyday on my Facebook feed. It is wonderful that today’s parent is helping parents and children everywhere that we are all equally valued in today’s society!

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  11. Congratulations! and keep on being the person to shake the world’s shoulders! Awesome, Tara! I have a nephew, Errol, who was born with Down Syndrome. He gave the best hugs! He moved from the area when he was just a baby, so I never got any more hugs like that. Prayerful, excited, proud hugs sent to you and yours.

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  12. Wonderful thing to do, but I agree with the comment questioning why the need to justify or explain her?

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  13. It’s unfortunate that you feel the need to explain why you put this little girl on your cover.

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  14. Absolutely beautiful cover photo! And Kelly is right. My son is almost 20 yrs. old and I still have tears of joy talking about him. With that extra chromosome comes an extraordinary love! Thanks for sharing your kiddos so publicly Tara!

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  15. As happy as I am to see that sweet little face on the cover of Today’s Parent, it saddens me that you felt you had to explain yourselves. Why can’t we just go ahead with confidence and have children with differences on the covers of magazines and newspapers. Rather than point out the differences lets just let kids be kids. They don’t see these said differences until they are pointed out or singled out. Thank you today’s Parent for including these incredible kids on your cover. Please do not stop the photos, just the explanations.

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  16. What beautiful children! I had the pleasure of caring for a 60 year old lady with Down syndrome. It warmed my heart to see such an innocent and loved woman!

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  17. It’s really too bad that this had to be a conscious decision…children are children, with a wealth of different abilities. It would be great to see a child in a wheelchair, or with a communication device, without an explanation as to why…

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  18. I’m not sure why you even need a heading “Why we put this little girl on our cover”??? I see two adorable little kids that represent the Today’s Parent magazine. I’m now a grandparent and love this magazine. (If you put a miserable looking grandparent on the cover, then you would have ‘some explaining to do!!)

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  19. I love the cover photo and this little girl is perfect in every way! I am, however, irritated by the magazine for thinking they need to explain or justify why they chose this little girl over “non diverse” cover models. Well intended I’m sure, but poorly executed!!

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  20. Why wouldn’t she be on your cover? She is sweet and beautiful! Good choice!!!

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  21. Why not just feature these beautiful children on your cover, without providing an explanation. The fact that an explanation is needed almost negates the fact that you are trying to be inclusive and promote diversity. Do you feel a need to provide a rationale for why you have chosen other cover models (e.g. Eye colour, skin colour, height)??
    I love your magazine, and read it religiously. When I saw the recent cover, I thought you made a wonderful choice, no justifications or explanations necessary.

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  22. I love this issue and the picture. Down’s Syndrome is not present in my family as yet; therefore I can not say I enjoyed seeing the inclusion in Today’s Parent because of familiarity. I enjoy diversity and I enjoy children. That is enough. I too was saddened that Today’s Parent felt the need to explain why they chose this child. I applaud the inclusion. However, the perceived need for an explanation lessened the act in my humble opinion.

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  23. I feel this is extremely offensive. If you really want to strive for diversity, you wouldn’t draw any attention to the fact that Pip has Down syndrome.

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  24. Kudos to taking a small step towards inclusion, as the other post pointed out, why do you need to explain why Pip is on the cover? I used to subscribe but month after month of seeing the same perfect Caucasian kids on the cover, is not a reflection of the true diversity in canada, in a rare instance maybe they’ll be an African Canadian baby, but truly not representative of how Canadian kids and babies really look.

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  25. Love your cover, love your explanation. I’m not sure how many people being critical have a child with Down syndrome but I do and I LOVE that not only is Pip on the cover but it’s to celebrate her having Ds. So many purposefully exclude its nice to know that your making the purposeful effort to be inclusive!! Yay today’s parent. I think I may have to get a subscription!

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  26. Thank you to the McCallan Family and Today’s Parent for sharing this. Well done!

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  27. When I read this headline I immediately became disappointed in Today’s Parent – true diversity is when we have a diverse range of children on the cover, more frequently than once every 20 years and without explanation! You wouldn’t write an article about “why” you chose a non-disable child for the cover. I think it’s amazing the message the parents are trying to send….I just think it’s sad that TP felt the need to explain….I guess we haven’t come as far as we thought??

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