Kurt Turner - Hartford model is ready for the catwalk

Kurt Turner

Kurt Turner - Credit: Archant

When Kurt Turner, from Hartford, was born his mother was told he might never walk or talk. Now the fashion-mad 26-year-old has been signed up by a model agency, writes Mairead Mahon.

Kurt and Michelle Turner

Kurt and Michelle Turner - Credit: Archant

Any mother would be glowing with pride if their son was signed up by a modelling agency: after all, it is a particularly competitive industry. However, for Hartford-based, Michelle Turner that sense of pride was particularly sweet because when her son, Kurt, was born with Down’s Syndrome 26 years ago, she was told that he might never walk or talk.

‘It was terribly upsetting news and I was even given the option of giving him up but I loved him on sight; so I gave him the name of my favourite movie star, Kurt Russell, and we went home together to face whatever life was going to throw at us,’ explains Michelle, who was only 21 at the time.

Life threw quite a lot at them, including the fact that Kurt needed several operations but as the years passed, it soon became apparent that not only was he going to walk and talk, he was happiest being the centre of attention.

‘He has lots of cousins who were always around when he was growing up and he was always right in the middle of what was going on and yes, even then, he had an interest in clothes: if he didn’t like it then he wasn’t going to wear it,’ laughs Michelle.

Kurt Turner

Kurt Turner - Credit: Archant

That interest in fashion became stronger as Kurt grew older; shopping trips with his family were something that he actively looked forward to.

‘I love shopping for clothes and I like many styles, although smart casual is my favourite’, explains Kurt.

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Michelle added:‘It’s a cliché that women take ages choosing an outfit and men get bored waiting for them. That is true of both my husband, Jeff, and my younger son Jack. But not with Kurt. I wait while he happily tries on lots of things, making sure that everything is perfect. He never has to ask, “Does my bum look big in this?” because he knows exactly what suits him.’

Kurt is pretty particular about how his clothes are cared for too and although Michelle is allowed the dubious honour of very carefully laundering them, Kurt doesn’t quite trust her folding techniques. He prefers to do that himself, before putting everything away in his extra-large wardrobe where all outfits are carefully colour co-ordinated.

‘I like to look after my clothes, which is one reason my wardrobe keeps getting bigger: I keep buying but I never throw anything anyway,’ smiles Kurt.

One of the reasons Kurt looks so good in clothes is the fact that he likes to keep himself in trim; despite enjoying food so much that he has successfully studied catering at college.

‘I believe in healthy eating but, when I do have a treat, I burn it off with activities like disco dancing, kick boxing and walking our dog, Merlin,’ says Kurt, although, as Merlin is a Weimaraner, it is open to debate as to who is walking who!

Plenty of calories are burned off too when Jeff, Jack and Kurt congregate on the sofa to cheer on their favourite team, Liverpool FC: a great way to bond!

However, it was Kurt’s interest in fashion, his extrovert personality and the fact that he loves to be photographed which led the family to wonder if modelling might prove to be the perfect career for him. Michelle, who has counselled other families, is the founder of Looking Forward Activities, which aims to provide high quality support and experiences for people over sixteen with learning difficulties and so she was perfectly placed to find the best route.

‘School days weren’t always easy for Kurt, which is why I know how important it is to provide a safe place for those with differing needs where they can make friends, improve skills and have some fun. Obviously, a lot of people feel the same as it has absolutely flourished. It was through my work that I learned about Zebedee Management; an agency that promotes diversity in modelling and so I sent them some pictures of Kurt,’ says Michelle.

There was great excitement in the Turner household when Zebedee said that they would like to see Kurt in person.

‘We were so pleased and excited. Jack has an especially close relationship with his brother and, the night before, they spent ages thinking about what Kurt might wear: even Merlin the dog got involved by barking at outfits that he approved,’ says Michelle.

The agency was very impressed with Kurt: his carefully groomed appearance, exquisite dress sense and the fact that he was easy to direct and photograph made him a natural and so it wasn’t really a surprise when they signed him up, making him a bona fide model. The family lived in France for a little while, so if he is ever booked to appear on the French catwalk, Kurt has the added advantage of knowing a little French. Might he model the Liverpool FC shirt? Jack and Jeff would love it if he did but what does Kurt think?

‘I might draw the line at that’, laughs Kurt.

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