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Meet Alexia Rivera, a Long Island model with Down syndrome who is redefining beauty

Long Island model with Down syndrome is redefining beauty
Long Island model with Down syndrome is redefining beauty 02:34

HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. -- Her face can be seen on a giant holiday ad billboard near the Midtown Tunnel and in storefronts across the nation.

She is a young woman from Long Island who is being recognized for her beauty inside and out.

CBS New York met this very special model on Wednesday.

The picture of beauty in Sephora and Kohl's stores worldwide is the smiling face of 20-year-old Alexia Rivera of Huntington Station, with her mom.

Rivera's priceless reaction upon seeing herself larger than life in her hometown mall brought tears of joy.

"I got really excited and choked up. It feels amazing," Rivera said.

It's an amazing dream come true for a young woman with Down syndrome who has never viewed it as a disability.

"I call it 'Up' syndrome -- happy sometimes, smiles, and having a good heart," Rivera said.

Her modelling career was inspired by another beautiful face -- a British model who also has Down syndrome.

"When she saw Ellie Goldstein on that cover, with Gucci sponsoring it, she was like, 'She has my face, mom. I want to do it too,'" Alexandria Rivera said.

And that launched a career and a mission to inspire.

"Girls like myself, just don't limit yourself. You do it," Alexia Rivera said.

Alexia's fashion designer mom helped her sign with the same inclusive talent agency. She's now getting the star treatment as the face of beauty for several brands.

She's also a fighter, having overcome a stroke and partial paralysis. She helped launch a boxing program for people with challenges at her father's gym, proving that being a knockout is more than skin deep.

Beauty radiates from within.

"It's inside of you. That's what makes it beauty," Alexia Rivera said.

"Beauty is definitely within us. It's not just on the outside thing, not the shell. It's who you are, how you love and care for others," father Eddie Rivera said.

"It's what's inside. Always be a good person," Alexandria Rivera added.

And the future is bright. Alexia Rivera has two new national campaigns coming out in the new year, and she's taking acting classes. Her stardom that has transformed her into a role model.

"Seeing her up there, seeing something we never thought possible years and years ago, it's amazing how the world is becoming more accepting and diverse and more inclusive," Alexandria Rivera said.

"What I see is an opportunity for other individuals to say, 'Hey, if she can do it, I can do it, too,'" Eddie Rivera said.

"I don't follow. I'm a leader," Alexia Rivera added.

She's leading the way to show there's beauty in everyone.

Alexia Rivera is also a student in the South Huntington School District in the Life Skills program and works as a barista-in-training at a coffee shop.

"To have a student be as successful as Alexia has, who is in the life skills population, is truly a testament to not only herself, but also her teachers and her parents who give her the confidence to be able to be herself and to achieve these kinds of goals," said John Murphy, principal of Walt Whitman High School. "On a personal note, getting to know Alexia over these last few years has been amazing. She brightens up a room every time she walks in it. She has such a personality that you feel happy around her, and she does that to not only myself, but the students and all the people she interacts with every day."

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