Model from northern Illinois finds success as she battles with epilepsy

MACHESNEY PARK (WREX) –  A Machesney Park native is taking the modeling world by storm. Jessica Stewart travels the world posing in ads for major brands, but her story isn’t just about a local girl becoming a successful model. It’s about the massive hurdle she battles every day to continue the job of her dreams.

“I do a lot with Aldo Cappola, which is my hair. A lot with Diesel,” said Stewart.

From runways to magazines, Stewart is a bona fide, successful model.

“I’ve had jobs where they’re like, OK 5 a.m. show up and then we don’t leave until 10 p.m. It’s usually two hours of makeup, two hours of hair,” she said.

It’s easy to see her flair for modeling. What’s not easy to see is her disability.

“I really haven’t talked that openly about this before,” she told 13 WREX. “It’s very weird to talk about.”

At 12 years old, Jessica signed a contract with Ford Modeling. Then at 16, she developed epilepsy.

“I just started seizing out of nowhere and we couldn’t really get it under control,” said Stewart.

It got so bad, she was forced to drop out of Harlem High School.

“I went from being a cheerleader, doing really good in school to then living in the hospital, doing all these crazy tests,” she said. “They said because I missed so much school that I had to fail.”

But for Jessica, failure is not an option.

“She could either feel sorry for herself, forget her dreams, whatever. She said, I’m gonna go full forward, and we always supported her on that,” said her mom, Darci Johnson.

With the support of her parents, Jessica got her GED and pushed forward with modeling. Now she lives in Milan, and is living her dream.

“I was walking around and I saw myself on the Diesel (billboard). I’ve had about four billboards there now for Diesel, for Aldo Cappola,” said Jessica.

“She’s showing kids that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean that you can’t follow your dreams. And I’m very proud of her for that,” said Johnson.

Jessica has to manage her epilepsy carefully. There are times she’s had seizures while out on photo shoots. But she says focusing on her health and taking care of herself helps, and she has no plans of slowing down her modeling career.

HOI ABC Staff

HOI ABC Staff

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