You’ve probably seen Canadian model Winnie Harlow, born Chantelle Brown-Young, and didn’t even know it. If you’ve seen any magazine ad or commercial with any model with vitiligo in it, it was probably her. She is literally everywhere after being on Season 21 of Tyra Banks hugely successful, America’s Next Top Model TV show.
But Harlow did not have an easy childhood. At the age of four she was diagnosed with vitiligo, the incurable skin pigmentation disease that causes colorless patches to develop on a person’s body.
Bullied for the way she looked, her peers at school taunted her with cruel nicknames such as “cow” and “zebra”. “The bullying was so bad that I was forced to drop out and be homeschooled,” Harlow recalls.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Harlow has over one million followers on Instagram, she’s the face of Spanish fashion label Desigual.
“I learned to love who I am despite what anyone would say about or to me. This gave me the courage to really stand up to anyone or any obstacle in my life,” the 25-year-old Harlow told CNN.
“I was singled out. I was bullied and even alienated by those who didn’t mean to do it,” she says. “My mom would bring this dark makeup that didn’t even look like me. She tried to use to try to make me feel better.”
“During school around second grade, I used to have difficulty making friends, but then I met these girls who trying to see if I was one of the cool kids. We bonded and were great friends until all of a sudden they were gone. They would avoid me during lunch, they would avoid me after school, until one day I went up to them and asked them what’s up. They said ‘Sorry, we can’t talk to you anymore. Our parents said we might catch your skin condition.’”
“Can you imagine how that made me feel at that age? But as I got older, I didn’t want to be in that position, so I took a turn and instead of being bullied, I became the bully, which wasn’t good either” explains Harlow during her TEDx speech.
After being the bully for so many years, Harlow knew that wasn’t her path either. So what did she do? Created her own path.
“I needed to take myself out of this side or that side and create for myself a new mold. I learned to find beauty in everything. To know for yourself what beauty is.”
“When America’s Next Top Model (ANTM) was casting for the new season I asked all my fans online to tag Tyra Banks so she could see my photos — and they did! My little sister started a Facebook page for me and one of the producers from the show sent a message showing interest. Initially I didn’t believe it but I followed through and ended up being on the show for season 21. After Tyra gave me that opportunity it was my time.”
And what a time it has been. From being on photoshoot after photoshoot for the world’s top magazines, to…