Featuring everything from Take That exchanging gifts with Twiggy in front of a roaring log fire to Danni Minogue tearing up the dancefloor at a festive party, the annual Marks & Spencer Christmas commercial is always a star-studded affair. But any famous faces who pop up in this year’s advert, due to hit television screens on Wednesday, are likely to be outshone by a certain smiling four-year-old. Seb White, who has Down’s syndrome, was snapped up by the retailer to pose for its catalogue after his mother – frustrated by the lack of diversity among child models – posted his photograph on the store’s Facebook page.
Impressed by the response on the social networking site, M&S shot the little boy for a photographic campaign.
They were so happy with the results that they made the decision to cast Seb in their 2012 Christmas TV campaign too.
The 2012 advert, which will run in prime time slots over the next six weeks, sees the youngster wearing a cute bow tie and knitted cardigan as he dances and plays with other children.
Mother Caroline White, from Bath, says she contacted the store in an effort to break down some of the stereotypes surrounding disability.
But the 39-year-old project manager has admitted to feeling overwhelmed by the news that her ‘mischievous’ son – who has also modelled for JoJo Maman Bebe – was to star in a major television campaign.
‘I felt like we’d made a really big breakthrough,’ she told The Times.
Mrs White, who said she was on the verge of tears when she got the phone call from Marks & Spencer to ask if Seb would like to take part, said her son isn’t singled out in the advert because of his Down’s Syndrome.
‘He is just one of the group of children dancing and playing,’ she said.
‘It says he is one of the cool kids too, that he is just like everyone else, and that’s how it should be.’
Mrs White has told how, after having Seb, she noticed an absence of anything other than ‘lots of ads with hundreds of beautifully perfect kids’.
This year, while shopping for a uniform for her now four-year-old, she said it hit her again that ‘all the “different” children out there that are starting school are not really represented’.
Her subsequent post on the Marks & Spencer Facebook page, which was accompanied by a photo of Seb, read: ‘He has striking, unusual features, charms the pants off everyone he meets, and his little face is full of magic and mischief.
‘So here’s the thing. He also happens to have Down’s Syndrome. When he was born I was shocked to my core.
‘I knew nothing about the condition and what should have been the happiest day of my life was the worst…My heartfelt plight is to get him ‘out there’ and get the message across that different isn’t any less wonderful – or even that different.’
M&S was one of a number of retailers contacted by Mrs White, but it was the only one that responded.
The determined mother has said she is hoping her son’s starring role in the brand’s new festive advert – directed by the British pop video specialist behind the music video for Beyonce’s hit Single Ladies – will go further in putting paid to some of the misconceptions surrounding Down’s Syndrome.