Meet Sofía Jirau, The Puerto Rican Model With Down Syndrome Who Is Shaking Up The Exclusive Fashion Scene

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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Most folks veer away from the creative dreams of their youth for fear of failure, but Sofía Jirau is not most people. At 5 years old, Jirau knew she wanted to be a model and entrepreneur. At 22 years young, the Puerto Rican model can now add New York Fashion Week to her résumé – and that’s just the beginning as far as she sees it.

“I’m going all over the world,” she tells me decidedly from her home in San Juan. There is no fear. In and out, there are no limits. I’m not scared of anything, eso se va pa’ la calle.”

Although lively in tone throughout the interview, Jirau got really unfortunate news just a few minutes before our call. Her friend, designer and inspirational social figure Darleen Savir passed away after months of fighting cancer.

“The storm doesn’t last forever… We’re going to learn from those difficult moments and create positive [mindsets]. We’re going to look at everything as the most beautiful parts of life – even scars…” Savir said in one of her videos last year.

Savir and Jirau share that outlook on life.

When asked about the challenges she’s faced throughout her relatively short career, Jirau bypasses the question entirely. “I look at myself in the mirror and I get strength,” she says about where she draws inspiration.

“Sofía doesn’t know challenges or limits,” said Armando Lorenzo, one of the many volunteers on Jirau’s team. “She sees everything as an opportunity to show she has [what it takes]… She doesn’t know how to answer that because we try to keep those words out of her vocabulary so she understands she’s able to achieve everything she sets her mind to… as she has up until now.”

Lorenzo and a team of at least three other volunteers have been working with Jirau for almost two years. Together, they’ve organically built a brand they can all be proud of. Naturally, many others have wanted to help bring the young entrepreneur’s vision to life. After months of diction, dance and modeling training, Benjamin Diaz – who has worked with Miss Puerto Rico contestants in the past – came on board to help her with runway training as well. Jirau was able to flaunt that newly acquired skill at Marissa Santiago’s New York Fashion Week show.

“I want to show the world I have everything a model needs to shine,” Jirau wrote to followers on the day of the show. Several brands have tapped her for partnerships and upcoming shows in Puerto Rico.

For years, high-end fashion models and brand ambassadors were a specific, predictable breed. As the industry continues to widen the spectrum of who’s included in the exclusive scene, one can only hope for more of this.