Incredible Women

A Letter To My Future Self: Actor And Advocate Madison Tevlin

In this series of Incredible Women essays, inspiring voices making a mark on the world share a letter to themselves in the future. Up next is MADISON TEVLIN, the actor, presenter and passionate advocate for the Down-syndrome community who stars alongside Woody Harrelson in the upcoming movie Champions

Madison Tevlin

Dear Madison in the future,

Hi, this is Madison from the past. I’m in my twenties right now and so much has happened in our life already, but I can’t wait to see all the things we’ve accomplished, and what the world looks like, by the time I get to you.

When I was born, the doctor told Mom and Dad that life would be hard for me. They were told that I may never talk or walk, and I may never be able to hold a job. If only that doctor could see me now. I certainly talk and I definitely walk. In fact, I just walked a red carpet. I turned my greatest passion – acting – into a full-time career, and now I’m starring in a Hollywood movie. I’m also the host of my own TV show, and I’m always advocating for my community.

When I was born, the doctor told Mom and Dad that life would be hard for me. They were told that I may never talk or walk, and I may never be able to hold a job. If only that doctor could see me now

I’m not sure why, but just like that doctor who believed my life would be difficult, a lot of people think we are defined by Down syndrome. Isn’t that crazy? I really hope that’s changed by the time you’re reading this. In the meantime, I stand up and stand with the community because there is strength in numbers – and when people don’t believe in us, we can be an army of ‘YES, WE CAN!’

I hope life has continued to surprise us. I would never have thought that recording a version of John Legend’s All of Me – just for fun, but it then went viral – would be the beginning of where I am today. Something a lot of people still may not know is that singing can be a challenge for people with Down syndrome. I took lessons and worked hard to break that mould.

The big lesson here is that age and ability are just words. Future Maddy, I hope you’re still putting yourself out there.

That Hollywood movie I mentioned? It’s called Champions. When I read the script, I knew the role of Cosentino was made for me. I got to work alongside some incredible people, including Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson and Bobby Farrelly. This 21-year-old is so excited, and thankful to everyone who made this film and for bringing out the best in me. Amazing things happen when you embrace inclusivity. Keep sharing that message. I think there are a lot of people who need to hear it.

Last year, I hosted the TV show Who Do You Think I Am? I love to talk and ask questions, and, for this show, I got to put that curiosity to work. I chatted with Sarah Nicole Landry – aka The Birds Papaya. We talked about body image and not judging a person based on how they look. I had a few things to say about that! I also talked to drag queen Juice Boxx, singer Tyler Shaw, and actor and host Ann Pornel. We each shared our unique stories. My hope is to help other people embrace and celebrate what makes them different, just like my Mom and the community I’ve found through Best Buddies [International] have always taught me.

When I was 19, I had to have heart surgery. That seems so long ago now, but I remember the feeling as if it was yesterday. I was so scared. Not only of the operation, but also of the recovery and the pain that would come with it. But you know what I wasn’t expecting? Everyone else being scared for me. Seeing my Mom so worried and my family trying to be brave made me want to work even harder to come out stronger. And I did! It definitely helped that I had so many people rooting for me.

What’s the world like for us in the future? Is it a positive place, where people are encouraged and championed to be themselves? That’s the world I want us to live in. Where have we traveled to? Is Ibiza a blast? How’s the food in Japan? Tell me the beaches in Barbados are beautiful. And what about France? Is it as cool as I imagine it to be?

I’ve already met so many people in the entertainment industry, and it’s inspired me to do more behind the scenes. I want to write my own screenplay. I know we love being in charge, so I hope we get our first director credit, too. Representation matters, both on and off screen, and just like the hard work I put into learning to sing, I want to dig in and learn everything there is to know about this industry that I’ve grown to love so much.

I can’t wait to meet you – to be you – in the future. In the meantime, when things get tough, listen to music and talk to the people you love. I’ll make sure to bring my positive self for the long journey ahead.


Madison, your twenty-something self

Champions is in movie theaters now

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Madison Tevlin, aged 19, with her parents before heart surgery