Nineteen-year-old Shumeez Scott, from Cape Town, is no ordinary teenager. She is an international model who has Down Syndrome.
It is 10.30am in the kitchen of her home in Mitchells Plain, which she shares with her family, and Shumeez is making breakfast. She dumps a mountain of garlic in the frying pan. “Shumeez! That is too much garlic! Are you trying to kill me?” shouts her sister, Zhuqeelah. They both chuckle as she scoops out some of the garlic.
Each morning, Shumeez wakes up between 10am and 11am, and drifts over to the kitchen to make breakfast – eggs with mushrooms and (a lot of) garlic or, if she’s feeling lazy, porridge.
But Shumeez is no lazy teenager. She holds two beauty-pageant titles and a lifetime contract with a modelling academy.
She has always modelled. On her 12th birthday, she strutted through the living room in a dazzling princess dress, posing as her family cheered her on. “That’s Shumeez – eyes always on her,” Zhuqeelah says.
But she never thought she would model professionally. Her career started unexpectedly in April 2017. She was watching Zhuqeelah during her hijab photoshoot. The photographer saw Shumeez sitting there and asked to take photos of her, so Zhuqueelah dressed her up with makeup and clothes. They were both surprised at how natural she was in front of the camera.
A few days later, the photographer called Shumeez’s mother, Bahia Janodien, asking if she could submit the photos to a beauty competition. Shumeez won the competition and the title of National Miss Down Syndrome Ribbons4Roses South Africa 2017.
In February 2018, she was crowned Miss MWI (Magnificent Women International) Phenomenal South Africa 2018-2019 in India. In March 2019, she will be crowned Miss MWI Phenomenal International 2018-2019 in Nigeria.
“I love the camera,” says Shumeez. “But the first time I modelled on the ramp, I was like, ‘Where’s my mother? Where’s my sister?’ I was so nervous.”
After her success in India, her mother asked Shumeez what her dream was. She said she wanted to be a supermodel and open her own hand-massage business.
“I’d never realised that Shumeez has needs of her own,” says her mother. “Always being there to protect her, not realising that she can be independent, and she has dreams like my other two children have. She was saying, ‘I want to live a dream. I have a dream as well, so why can I not live my dream?’’’