Madeline Stuart as disability advocate and brand: Exploring the affective economies of social media

Maria Bee Christensen-Strynø, Camilla Bruun Eriksen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Madeline Stuart is a fashion model from Australia who lives with Down syndrome. She became a social media phenomenon in 2015, and ever since she has travelled around the world to attend fashion industry shows and events. This chapter explores the dynamics and tensions related to the co-existence of Stuart’s self-commodification and disability advocacy by looking into the ways in which she manages and negotiates her different roles and identities through transformative processes of celebrification on social media. We analyze the Stuart case through a conceptual framework of affective economies which is operationalized for the purpose of thinking about disability as a form of emotional currency, and which through circulation and exchange acquires surplus value. In this framework, disability is seen as in itself an empty sign to which meaning and value attach itself through its continuous circulation. This is effectively demonstrated by paying analytical attention to Stuart’s framing of the common cultural trope of weight loss as a significant transformative process which, we argue, performs as a gateway to legitimizing and branding Down syndrome and disability as a particular capitalizable identity. The chapter should be read by anyone interested in the complex entanglements of commercialized logics on social media and disability identity politics.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDisability, Media, and Representations : Other Bodies
EditorsJacob Johanssen, Diana Garrisi
Number of pages16
PublisherRoutledge book series
Publication date10 Mar 2020
Edition1st edition
Pages 35-50
ISBN (Print)9781138603011
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020
SeriesRoutledge Research in Disability and Media Studies


  • disability advocacy and branding
  • celebrification
  • micro-celebrity
  • Instafame
  • affective economies
  • weight loss

Cite this

Christensen-Strynø, M. B., & Eriksen, C. B. (2020). Madeline Stuart as disability advocate and brand: Exploring the affective economies of social media. In J. Johanssen, & D. Garrisi (Eds.), Disability, Media, and Representations: Other Bodies (1st edition ed., pp. 35-50). Routledge book series. Routledge Research in Disability and Media Studies