Shumeez Scott has not let Down’s syndrome define her. Instead, she was recently crowned the winner at an international pageant for people who have special needs.

The inaugural Magnificent Women Icon (MWI) Phenomenal International Pageant for Special Needs People was held in The Gambia. The 19-year-old from Mitchell’s Plain started modelling unintentionally at the age of 12.

She accompanied her older sister Zhuqeelah to a photo shoot and was spotted by a photographer.

“One aunty asked: ‘Can I take a few pictures of your sister?'” Scott recalled.

“I felt super excited,” she added.

Almost seven years later, Scott is modelling professionally after she was awarded a lifetime contract with ACE models. She has participated in a few campaigns with them.

Scott’s mother, Bahia Janodien, said she wanted to give her daughter a normal life. She said she sometimes asked herself if she was doing enough.

Scott was crowned Miss MWI Phenomenal South Africa 2018-2019 in India last year. On March 30 this year, the 19-year-old added the international title to her belt.

“I felt important and confident,” Scott said.

Her mother added that it was an “amazing” night.

“Seeing Shumeez being crowned, that was the most amazing night in my entire life,” Janodien said. “Seeing her standing on that stage, being so confident, and accepting that crown with so much dignity within herself… that made me the proudest mom ever,” she added.

Janodien told News24 she wanted other children who have special needs to feel the same way her daughter felt, which is why she started the Shumeez Scott Foundation. She also drew inspiration from India, where they interacted with other young adults who have special needs.

“I saw young men and women with Down’s syndrome living a normal life and some with jobs,” she said.

In November, the foundation hosted their first fashion show for young adults with Down’s syndrome and autism.

“The idea was to give them the opportunity to feel what Shumeez felt when she walked on the ramp for the very first time. To see how confident the kids were, made me realise that they are capable of much more if they are just given the opportunity.”

On her plans for the future, Scott said she wanted to “help other children live their dreams” and open a massage parlour.

Janodien said they started training the youth on how to give massages and visited old age homes “to show that they can make a difference and that they want to do something for themselves”.

The foundation started with just three children who have special needs and in a few months, it grew to 36. Janodien said it made her proud to see how they interacted with each other and how they had grown. Their immediate challenge is space to accommodate the growing number of members and transporting them to her house.

“It hurts me to say no to the other children that want to join us. I started the work in my garage, but my house is now too small,” she said.

She hopes to have her own premises with a dance and fashion studio.



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