Pinellas high school student with Down syndrome appears in Walmart commercial

Something Good

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A Northeast High School senior in St. Petersburg is breaking barriers for people with Down syndrome and others with special needs with his modeling skills. 

Ethan Holt was first discovered by Clearwater-based beachwear company “Surf Style” after a photo shoot for a Tampa Bay non-profit called “Help Us Gather,” also known as “HUG.” 

Holt’s modeling career has now gone to new heights. He’s featured in a spring commercial for Walmart. 

(Courtesy Surf Style)

“I love [being in front] of the camera. It’s a lot of fun. I do the work… I listen to everybody and do all of that,” Ethan told WFLA.

Ethan’s mother, Phoy Holt, said her son was asked if he modeled for a living, he was such a natural.

“He was just working it. They didn’t have to give any instruction,” she laughed.

Ethan’s modeling career has gone national as his photoshoots gain more and more attention. The attention landed him in a spring commercial for Walmart.

The commercial was shot in Miami and Holt said her son received the “VIP treatment,” even getting his own trailer.

“They’re like, ‘you’re a natural! We don’t need anymore,’ than however many cuts than they said, they didn’t need much,” Holt said.

Ethan knew he wanted to be famous ever since he was young. Holt said her son “had his own premonition” during a trip to New York City when he was around 10 years old.

“In the movies and everything, people are like, ‘if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere!’ So he knows that sort of theme. So he was in New York, he was in Times Square and he sees all these lights and he just says, ‘I’m going to be famous, I’m famous!’ He tells everybody,” Holt said.

“Everyone he met on the train, they thought he was famous or has some sort of entourage, because it was me, my daughter, my husband and a couple friends, so they thought we were his entourage. We were like, ‘no, we’re his family!’”  

(Courtesy Surf Style)

Those who know and teach the senior at Northeast High School have always been proud of the charismatic, energetic student.

“Ethan is very outgoing, very trainable, very friendly. He just loves being around people, very sociable, very likeable kid. In class Ethan performs well, he tries hard in everything he does. He gives 100 percent. He’s been on the swim team, he’s been on the wrestling team, he’s just a very impressive young man,” teacher Scott Peterson said.

Ethan’s principal, Michael Hernandez, had high praise for the aspiring model as well.

“There’s just a glow to him, an energy to him that just attracts others to want to be near him and follow him,” he said.

Tyler Baynard, another teacher, said he is not surprised Ethan is having success in the modeling world as he’s a natural performer and loves to sing and dance.

“Ethan is the prime example of not letting a disability being a disadvantage. Since day one, when Ethan came on to our campus, we knew there was something special about him,” he said.

As he graduates this year, Ethan offered some advice for any and all careers.

“I want to say just work hard, in anything and front of the camera. Keep trying and work hard and go for it!” he said.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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