Ashley DeRamus, cofounder of the Ashley DeRamus Foundation and fashion line Ashley by Design, is an international Down syndrome advocate, successful entrepreneur, athlete, singer, fashion designer, public speaker and music video star. This Birmingham resident has won countless awards, nationally and internationally, for her hard work and dedication to helping people like herself who have Down syndrome and special needs. Her motto is “Don’t let people tell you what you can’t do. Show them what you can do.” Her inspiring outlook and impressive list of accomplishments make her a motivational force to be reckoned with. We’re delighted to welcome Ashley as today’s FACE of Birmingham.
Tell us about the Ashley DeRamus Foundation.
The foundation was founded by my mom and me. We work to teach people about Down syndrome and how we help the world. Through education and fundraising, we support programs for people with disabilities. It’s to help kids with Down syndrome, to support my babies, to help their self-esteem and let them know they can do things on their own. I am blessed to have the chance to do this.
Do you have programs where you get people with Down syndrome involved in the community in different ways?
Yes, we take them to play softball and games, and we do other events like bowling and horseback riding. I also volunteer at the Bell Center and work with kids like myself. In 2012, I sponsored four scholarships at the center. We also travel around the country talking to people about Down syndrome and how they can get involved in their communities.
With all of your experience bringing awareness and understanding to this issue, what are the key things that people need to know about people with Down syndrome?
We like to share how not to be ashamed to have Down syndrome. We are very loving and happy people. God made us who we are, and we can’t be ashamed!
Of all your amazing talents, which activity do you most enjoy?
I love singing, and I love playing the piano. That’s the thing I love the most. And I sang the national anthem. I had to practice a lot, but I wasn’t nervous. I like to make up songs on my piano and sing along. Starring in the music video with my friend Jason Crabb was also fun. I loved hanging out with him and meeting all of the families that came out to star in the video with me.
What advice would you give someone who feels they are facing a challenge in accomplishing their goals?
Don’t feel down about who you are. Be yourself. God makes us who we are and not somebody else. My motto is “Don’t let anyone tell you want you can’t do. Show them what you can do.”
Tell us about your clothing line.
About three years ago we started a clothing line called Ashley by Design. It started because my mom and me had a hard time finding clothes that fit me. Some of my clothes are for people with Down syndrome, but we’ve also expanded to have more clothes from Adorn (fashion company), and we also have a clothing line for kids and babies called Adore Kids. People with Down syndrome have a different body shape, and our clothing line is a perfect fit that is hard to find.
Earlier this month, you traveled to Chennai, India, to attend the World Down Syndrome Congress and receive the World Down Syndrome Award, presented by Down Syndrome International. How does it feel to receive international recognition for your good work?
I feel really good about it. I was so excited to go to India and get the award. While I was there, I visited a few schools and orphanages to meet kids of all ages.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
My mother. Sometimes when I feel sad or anything, I always come to my mom. Me and her talk and that helps me feel better. She’s always been there for me, and I love her very much.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m going to try not to cry. But I have a friend that I got really close to. Her name was Claudene Christian, and I was on a boat with her and all the crew. It was called HMS Bounty. I was on that ship, and after I left the ship, she said, “Ashley, don’t let people tell you what you can’t do, show them what you can do.” That’s the motto I live by now.
What’s your favorite thing about Birmingham?
My favorite thing about Birmingham is visiting the mall. I like to shop for clothes at the Galleria. All of the clothes there give me inspiration for my clothing line.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Normally, I stay home and watch TV. And if I go out, I would go bowling with friends or my mom. Or you can find me at my piano or singing along to gospel music.
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
I love the ribs at Jim ’N Nick’s and the steak at Texas Roadhouse.
What are your must-have style staples?
I like dresses, and I like things that shine. My clothing line has items like that in it. I also love my watch that was a gift from Gary, the foundation’s executive director.
What books are you currently reading?
I like reading Joyce Meyer’s Christian books that help me be strong. I’ve read them all many times, and they are my favorites.
What are your dreams for the future?
I want to do some more traveling. I enjoy traveling and doing things for people, because it is a mission for me and my mom. This is a thing that God has given me to help kids and show them the special things they can do with their lives.
That must feel so good.
Yes, it does. I love meeting and working with people, so I am very fortunate.
Aside from faith, family and friends, name three things you can’t live without.
Our three dogs, Stu, Bob and Larry
Thank you to Meg McKinney Photos for the terrific images in today’s article.