Virginia Girl in Wheelchair Meets Ulta Model She Gazed at in Viral Photo

Representation in ads matters, model Steph Aiello said

A little girl who uses a wheelchair stopped in her tracks when she saw an ad showing a model in a wheelchair outside an Ulta Beauty store in Northern Virginia. 

The girl recently got to meet that model, in a day the child's mom said was a dream come true. 

"We couldn't ask for anything better," she said. 

Four-year-old Maren Anderson met model Steph Aiello in the store in Leesburg, Virginia. Aiello greeted her warmly. 

"Look at your pink chair!" she said as the two rolled up to each other. 

Last month, Maren's mom, Carolyn Anderson, snapped a photo of Maren looking at the ad. That post went viral

"Well Ulta, you absolutely stopped my girl in her tracks this evening. It was mesmerizing to watch her stop, turn and gaze at this poster. So thank you," Anderson wrote. 

Ulta Beauty reached out to Anderson and set up a time for her to meet the model. 

The two bonded in a moment that Anderson called “overwhelming in the best way.”


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Aiello said she was moved to be a role model. 

“I am honored to be a part of her future, and to be a staple and show her that dreams do come true,” she said.

Maren has a rare disease caused by a gene mutation. She speaks in short sentences and communicates non-verbally, her mother said. 

At the Ulta store, Maren got her hair braided by a stylist and perused the nail polish aisle with Aiello at her side.

Representation in ads matters, Aiello said. 

“This is what the world needs,” she said. “The world needs this to be our community as opposed to just my community.”

Anderson said she hopes her daughter’s story will encourage people to be more accepting and inclusive toward people with disabilities.

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