Sofía Jirau has won over the hearts of thousands of people since becoming the first Victoria’s Secret model with Down syndrome, inspiring others like her to dream big.
“I want to tell the whole world that people with my condition, Down syndrome, inside and out, we have no limits," Jirau, who is Puerto Rican, told NBC News in her first interview with a national English-language news organization.
"People who have Down syndrome like me are capable of getting a job, creating their own business, and working hard like me,” she said, speaking in her native Spanish from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal condition diagnosed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is a condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome, resulting in changes to how the body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges.
Approximately 6,000 babies — or 1 in every 700 babies — are born with Down syndrome every year in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Since starting her modeling career in 2019, the 24-year-old Jirau has been using her platform to empower others, particularly those with Down syndrome, to not be afraid to work toward achieving their goals.
“I’ll tell everyone to just dream. To dream, because every dream can come true,” Jirau said.
One of Jirau's most noticeable idiosyncrasies is the way she confidently manifests all of her dreams in public while letting others know what she is doing to make them happen.
On her Instagram stories, Jirau often shares her workout routines or the healthy meals she eats every day to "always be ready" to hustle.
"You have to work hard, you have to work very hard, and more,” Jirau said. “My next dream is modeling in Europe, Paris and Italy.”
She is joining Victoria's Secret as the company is trying to distance itself from the once iconic images of Victoria’s Secret angels, and rebrands itself to appeal to all types of women.
Jirau is part of a diverse group of women featured in the Love Cloud Collection, the brand's newest line of underwear.
She remembers getting a call from her mentor, Alessandra Correa, who founded the Puerto Rican company INprende, where Jirau also works as an experience ambassador. The company focuses on providing business and professional development to people of all backgrounds.
Correa told Jirau that Victoria's Secret wanted to work with her.
"They said we’re going to hire you to model as the first model with Down syndrome in Victoria’s Secret,” Jirau said.
She then flew to Los Angeles to shoot the campaign.
“I loved the bra I wore for this campaign," Jirau said.
In a video of the campaign shared on social media before the collection hit stores Thursday, Jirau can be seen sporting a bra “in my favorite color, pink,” she said in Spanish. “I love it, I love it. Victoria’s Secret, I love it!”
One of her favorite parts about participating in the campaign was coming in a fancy car, wearing sunglasses. "It was a whole look," Jirau said. "After that, we did the shoot, and we were ready!"
"I felt like a shooting star," Jirau said, adding that joining Victoria's Secret is her biggest accomplishment since debuting on New York Fashion Week in 2020.
Besides being a model, Jirau is also an entrepreneur, running her own online store “Alavett,” based on a bilingual play on words of her favorite phrase “I love it.”
Jirau also launched a Spanish-language campaign of her own called “No Limits“ to demonstrate the capacity of people with Down syndrome to achieve their goals despite their condition.
“I’m glad and happy, looking to work hard, getting stronger and continuing to go to the gym to train and keep working at INprende," Jirau said as she absorbs the reactions to her historic achievement at Victoria's Secret.
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