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Unique, Beautiful and Brave

Lily D Moore is an nineteen-year-old actress, model, and advocate for people with disabilities. She was born with Down syndrome, but she doesn’t let that get in her way. She has starred in films, television and commercials.  

BY Faye Simon, Editor In Chief | August 2022 | Category: Healthcare

Unique, Beautiful and Brave

She has modeled on both coasts of the U.S. and traveled extensively in Asia and Europe.

Lily is involved with Special Olympics, Breaking Barriers, and Extra Special People. She also started H.E.L.P., an initiative that distributes packages of food and toiletries to the homeless. She will attend Clemson University this fall, and plans to pursue her career acting and modeling. Her ultimate long term goal is to win an Oscar.

She plans to continue to use her voice to advocate for people in all walks of life because she believes everyone is unique, beautiful, and brave.  Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Lily and her mom, Natalie Moore. 

Faye Simon: Lily, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Lily D. Moore: I just graduated from high school. I’m planning to go to Clemson University to major in healthcare, but still do acting. I love to act, model, and also help homeless people.

FS: How did you pick that college?

LM: Mom, can you help with this answer?

Natalie Moore: Sure. We have three children. Our two oldest have gone to college: one just graduated with a master’s, and the other one’s getting her Ph.D. So, Lily has experienced seeing her two older sisters go to college, and Lily has always said, “I’m going to college, too.”

As parents, we wanted to support that dream. So, we started doing our research and went on a whirlwind tour. Some were in person, some zoom because of COVID, but we did our research on about fifteen different campuses. We finally found Clemson, but we knew how competitive it is to get into Clemson. We didn’t have the best of hopes, because I think several hundred people applied, and they only had twelve or thirteen spots. So, we had backups, but no other offers. Then Clemson offered. Of course, Lily was thrilled.

FS: What would you like to do in healthcare?

LM: It’s between physical therapy and RN.

FS: Do you think you will still have time for acting?

LM: Hopefully. For the healthcare, I want to do that part-time.

FS: How and when did you start with acting and modeling?

LM: When I was about six years old, we used to live in Europe for three years, in Austria. I took a drama class in school. I loved it. Then when we moved back, I started getting involved with acting classes and workshops. I loved it more and I got an agent. It took a lot to get an agent, but finally one signed me, and then I started getting auditions and jobs.

FS: What was your first acting job?

LM: It was a commercial for a local hospital here.

FS: Were you nervous?

LM: I was a little nervous at that time. Yes.

FS: What do you enjoy about acting?

LM: Meeting new people and traveling the world.

FS: When did you get started with modeling?

LM: Can you help me with this answer, Mom?

NM: That just kind of has happened along the way. There were certain projects, and people would reach out and say, “Hey, you know, just looking through your portfolio, and your daughter just really spoke to me.” She had the opportunity to model for some famous photographers. For most of her modeling, people have reached out through her Instagram or contacted me through her website or her Facebook page.

FS: What’s your most recent acting?

LM: The recent was the movie. That was my most recent, Color My World With Love.

FS: You just finished it or are you still doing it?

LM: No. We finished. I can’t think how long ago we wrapped, but it was long ago.

NM: First week of April. I like the quote that she gave with the movie, when people asked her about it. Do you want to read that?

LM: Yeah. I hope viewers take away that Color My Word With Love is about painting your own story through your emotions, and that we all have endless possibilities.

FS: What’s it like when you see yourself on TV?

LM: I like it. I enjoy it because seeing myself on TV is very fun.

NM: We didn’t realize that the trailer for the movie was on. A friend of mine messaged me on Facebook and said, “Hey, I just saw the trailer for the movie.”

LM: We were like, "Wait? What?"

NM: Yes. I turned on the TV and we saw it.

LM: It was perfect timing.

NM: She got pretty emotional about it.

LM: Yes. I do.

NM: It’s very, very special. I had a lot of tearful moments myself.

FS: That is so exciting. What was your part in it?

LM: I was the main character of the whole movie. Her name is Kendall.

FS: Is it hard to remember the lines?

LM: Yes. Very.

NM: Lily has the gift of memorization, though. She really can memorize very quickly and easily.

FS: I’m shocked that she’s saying that. I would have thought you would have said sometimes you have to do the scene over and over and over.

LM: That’s pretty hard, too, doing the scene over and over and over.

FS: Do they feed you on the set?

LM: Yeah. They did. A lot.

FS: When you’re filming, is it a whole day or is it just a few hours at a time?

LM: They can hold me up to twelve hours. I had very early call times to late nights.

FS: Where was it filmed?

LM: It was filmed in Canada.

FS: Did you get to see any of Canada?

LM: Yes. It was nice. When I had free days, we were able to go and explore and stuff.

FS: Did you like the other actors?

LM: Oh, yes, so sweet.

FS: Do you, you like acting better than modeling?

LM: I prefer it. Yes.

FS: But you’ll do modeling if people ask?

LM: Mm-hm. Yeah.

FS: Growing up, what were some of your challenges?

LM: So, one of the biggest things was surgeries. I’ve had like a lot of bad legs and knees, open-heart surgery, back surgery. About thirteen surgeries. So, I’ll say, one of my main challenges I’ve had was surgeries.

NM: Yeah, they were long recoveries and they put her out of school for six to eight weeks. Because of that, she missed the social interaction with people, and certainly the bonding that can go with it. She was born with her knee on the righthand side on her right leg and with a kneecap growing on the outside of her leg. For the longest time they weren’t sure if they could do anything, or what they could do. That took a long time, and on the other side, it dislocated all the time. So she’s had multiple surgeries on those. Because of all that, she wasn’t able to do sports, which broke me and my husband’s hearts. We were athletes growing up. We just assumed that all three of our kids were going to be athletes.

LM: My two older sisters were athletes. I was the only one who was like, “No. I want to do acting.”

FS: Can you swim?

LM: Yes. I can. We have a pool in our backyard. I was a cheerleader for four years for varsity basketball.

NM: She also has ridden horses for years. She can’t do it at the moment, but, for seven, eight years, she’s ridden horses.

LM: It’s leg stuff. Possibly, another surgery is going to be happening.

NM: She had a surgery last May. She was getting bow-legged so they had to take out part of her shinbone to straighten her leg, and put in some hardware and a bone graft. The bone graft hasn’t taken hold. That’s why he said no horseback riding. Now, we’re going to have another surgery.

FS: Did they feel all this is related to Down syndrome?

NM: Well, loose joints and ligaments have certainly to do with Down syndrome, and the dislocating of the knee repeatedly. But the knee that kept growing on the outside could have been in utero, just because the loosey-goosey joints shifted over and never went back. But certainly, loose ligaments and joints and all that, is associated with Down syndrome.

LM: Yeah.

NM: Like her heart, there’s a lot of people with Down syndrome who have heart issues. Some don’t. Lily was lucky enough to have seven different issues. She has a lot of hardware. She has these beautiful scars where she can show them off, all of her warrior wounds.

FS: Lily, you are a warrior for sure! How was going to school for you, when you could be there?

LM: I enjoyed school. I had some really good friends there, but also there were some, obviously, mean people. It’s like a combination. But I grew a lot of friendships and I enjoyed going to school. Going through classes was very fun.

NM: She did have a time when she was bullied in middle school. Do you want to talk about that?

FS: (Lily became emotional and shook her head no) You don’t have to. I see it still hurts.

NM: She doesn’t mind me talking about it. She just feels emotional. In middle school, she got bullied by this one boy who was typical. The school did their very best to protect Lily, and keep her from him and him from her. But he just used every opportunity possible to throw stuff at her, slam her hand in the locker, and push her around physically.

LM: And punched.

NM: Yes, punched.

FS: Were any of the other children supportive?

LM: A lot of my friends, yes.

NM: This kid had a pattern of picking somebody each year and being relentless. The sad thing is that his mother didn’t seem to have a problem with it. So, that made it difficult, because if she didn’t have problem with it, then she didn’t think anything was wrong with what her son was doing. So, the final straw was one time when the teacher called and said he was throwing stuff and hitting her repeatedly in the back with erasers. I immediately got Lily and went straight back to the school. I said, “I need to see the principal.” “Oh, he’s not around right now.” I said “Well, you need to find him. I’m not leaving until I talk to him.” So, we had a very strong conversation and, thank goodness, action was taken then. But it took a long time. It just shocked me to my core that his family thought that it was okay, for not only a young man to bully a girl, but to take it one step further to bully somebody with a disability. However, she learned a lot of good life lessons from it.

LM: Yeah, true.

NM: We’ve always tried to teach our kids in whatever situation, how to turn that around. So, it definitely helped Lily to use her voice, and to speak up for herself, and speak up for other people.

FS: Where did you find support throughout? I’m sure your mom. But are there other people who have been very supportive for you throughout getting your career, school, and everything?

LM: Yes. My two older sisters are very supportive, and my dad is as well. Also, my grandmother is inspiring.

FS: Do you have pets?

LM: I do. I have three. I have two cats and a dog. I have a goldendoodle, Charlie. Then I have two cats, Lester and Hazel.

FS: Do they get along?

LM: Yes. They do.

FS: Do you walk your dog or is that hard for you?

LM: It’s hard for me sometimes, because he’s really strong. But we’ve taken lots of walk and stuff.

FS: Lily you speak out, and you’re an advocate. What would you like people to know about Down syndrome?

LM: We want to be like typical people. We want to do things like going to college, owning shops, and do our own businesses and do all that stuff. I think it’s really important. Also, people want to fall in love and get married one day, just like other typical people. People with disabilities want to do that, too.

FS: What else would you like people to specifically know about you, Lily?

LM: Well, I started a homeless ministry called H.E.L.P. It stands for Helping Everyone with Love and Passion. I put snacks and toiletries into bags. Whenever I see homeless people, I give them out. I have given out over one thousand bags in five years.

FS: Tell me a little bit more about your advocacy.

LM: I’m a Special Olympic Champion Ambassador. I give a lot of speeches and stuff to different schools and all that. And I’m about to... What’s those summer things?

NM: She’s going to open the ceremony for the Georgia’s Special Olympics.

FS: Do you have to speak?

LM: Yes. I have to speak, opening up the games and all that.

FS: Do they give you a script, or you write your own?

LM: They give it to me.

FS: When you do other speaking, what message do you want to get across?

LM: Follow your dreams. Finding that inner star and let that inner star come out and shine. I encourage people to include people with disabilities.

FS: Yes. Very important. That’s one of our hopes from this magazine, that as people learn more about all different disabilities, and see how they’re wonderful people, like anybody else, and how inspirational so many of them are, we’re hoping that inclusion will become a part of life. That would be a dream come true.

NM: During a commercial, I can’t remember the question that they asked her but Lily ended up saying…

LM: Everyone is unique, beautiful, and brave.

NM: That’s been her mantra. When people message her privately, and they’re having a hard day, she always reminds them that they are unique, beautiful, and brave.

FS: Do a lot of people reach out to you, Lily, who have disabilities?

LM: Yes and no, it’s between typical people and people with disabilities. I get a lot.

FS: Can you think of one or two interesting questions you’ve been asked?

LM: One of the funniest ones was this random person asking if I would marry them. You see, I said no. It was a very funny and interesting thing, for sure.

FS: Do you ever go to schools and talk to classes?

LM: Yes. I went to a school up in North Carolina once, talked to a school and stuff. It’s fun. There is a thing at that school. It’s called Reading with the Stars. It’s where you pick a book. You read it to little kids. It was really fun.

NM: They have a lot of questions.

LM: One of them wanted to know if I was rich. I told them, “No.” They also asked me what kind of phone I have.

NM: It’s interesting. One of the classes: I think there were six different groups. One of the groups that came through wanted to talk only about animals and pets after she read the book.

LM: It was really cute.

FS: Do you have advice for others who have Down syndrome?

LM: Everybody has an inner star whether it’s math, science, art, whatever. They should find their inner star. And also realize that other people have dreams, and whatever it is, I hope that they can achieve those goals.

FS: It’s been wonderful talking to both of you. Congratulations, Lily, on graduating, on your movie, and everything you do, and being such a wonderful human being. It’s so nice to meet both of you.

LM: Thank you.

NM: Thanks for the opportunity.  

Learn more about Lily and her career at www.lilydmoore.com 

Read the article here.