Gerber baby with Down syndrome highlights positive disability representation in media

Gerber Apple Blueberry Jarred Baby Food (pictured above) on a store shelf. The popular baby food brand is inspiring children and parents to accept all individuals. The company  has announced their first “Spokesbaby” with a Down syndrome. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Gerber announced the winner of the 2018 “Spokesbaby” contest on Feb. 7, according to The Washington Post. After receiving more than 140,000 entries for its photo search contest, the radiant smile of 18-month-old Lucas Warren won the judges over. 

Warren is the first Gerber Spokesbaby to have Down syndrome in the company’s 91-year history, according to CNN. This illustrates a remarkable stride toward social acceptance of those who have disabilities.

As the Spokesbaby winner, Warren will represent the company by being featured “on Gerber’s social media channels and will be featured in Gerber ads through the year,” as reported by CNN. Additionally, the Warren family will receive the grand prize of $50,000. 

Despite the Gerber Baby Photo Search starting in 2010, the company has never had a Spokesbaby with this particular disability. The current Chief Executive Officer and President of Gerber Bill Partyka spoke of why the company selected Warren, saying “We choose the baby who exemplifies Gerber’s longstanding heritage of recognizing that every baby is a Gerber baby, and Lucas is a perfect fit,” as reported by CNN.

The momentous decision will have an extraordinary impact on the portrayal of people with disabilities in the media and advertising.

More often than not, those who have visible disabilities are not depicted in the media. Therefore, it is important for renowned companies, like Gerber, to recognize disabilities as it will help those with special needs feel more welcomed in society. Moreover, advertising a minority group will influence our perceptions of them in a more positive way.

Warren’s mother would like to see greater change as a result of this campaign, stating “We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have the potential to change the world.” 

Within a matter of a few days, Warren has suddenly become a role model for people with disabilities because of the national attention he has gained as a Gerber baby, according to CNN.

Families with children who have Down syndrome rejoiced when Gerber announced Warren as the 2018 Spokesbaby. For example, Kinnon Foley, whose daughter has Down syndrome, said “the feeling was truly inexplicable” after seeing the announcement of the winner, as reported by Vogue. 

“Getting that affirmation last night, from a company like Gerber who is associated with the quintessential idea of the ‘perfect baby,’ and then discovering that baby has Down syndrome, it brought back all those emotions for me,” Foley said, according to Vogue. One can see that choosing Warren has had an incredible impact on families across the nation. 

It is imperative that companies do not discriminate against those with visible disabilities in their campaigns in order to show inclusivity. 

The stereotypes and perceptions of disabilities have the potential to be completely abolished with the help of Warren’s jubilant face representing Gerber. 

When certain groups are represented in the media, it often changes our perception of that particular faction. There comes a point of familiarity when we are consistently exposed to the same advertisements. The media have the power to establish social norms. Thus, more companies should support those with special needs in order to normalize disabilities.

As a company that is noted for marketing the “ideal baby,” Gerber has provided acceptance and support for families everywhere. Additionally, this communicates the value of the company itself. If companies began to recognize those with special needs, there would be a substantial reduction of preconceived notions against that particular group. Brands like Gerber have the power to change the world.