A tenacious teenager who refused to give up on her dream of becoming a model has become the first person with Down syndrome to win an international beauty pageant.

When Kate Grant (19), from Cookstown in Northern Ireland, was born, doctors warned her parents that she’d never be able to read or speak.

But not only has Kate proved them wrong, she’s continuing to defy the odds. After showing a keen interest in clothes and make-up from a young age, she told her mom, Deidre, at age 13 that she had dreams of becoming a model.

Deidre, who’d experienced the cut-throat nature of the modelling industry herself, was apprehensive.

She eventually agreed to let her daughter model because she says she was determined to raise her children to believe that “anything is possible”.

However, her fears were justified when a string of modelling agencies rejected her daughter’s applications.

Deciding to take matters into her own hands Deidre posted a gallery of images of Kate on Facebook, citing her daughter’s desire to become a model. The post was shared more than 26 000 times.

The 19-year-old was then invited to take part in a number of pageants – including the Ultimate Beauty Queen of the World competition, which celebrates diversity among its participants.

Fending off 40 other competitors, Kate took the top prize at the event held on 29 July in Portadown, Northern Ireland, to become the first person with Down syndrome to win an international beauty pageant.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think Kate would win the teen section,” Deidre says. “I felt as if I’d jumped back to when she was born and the doctors told my husband, John and I of all the negatives of Down syndrome, telling us what she’d never accomplish.

“I could visually see Kate in the hospital cradle and said to myself, if only I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have cried or worried like I had.”

Diedre says Kate was in shock when she was announced the winner.

“She asked her friend to pinch her to see if she was dreaming. Her wish was coming true and she was overjoyed.”

Kate loves meeting with others with special needs and chatting to them, telling not to let anyone stop them from following their dreams and aspirations.

“She’s a very determined young lady and it’s this determination that has made her stand strong in the face of adversity.

“Kate’s breaking through the barriers and paving the way for the next generation. She’s raising awareness of people with special needs.”

Kate says she wants to model all over the world.

“I want to show that beauty comes in all different shapes, sizes and colours,” she says. “There’s not just one look; I’m different and being different is wonderful.”