Winnie Harlow: Vitiligo Warrior

People tell you to be comfortable in your own skin. Being different, black or brown, or for that matter, having any disability/condition isn’t supposed to make you feel like a social anomaly. After all, beauty is not just supposed to be skin deep, rather, it should come from within. No matter how much people repost and retweet this, they, however, are never satisfied owning the skin that they do. Consequently, they always will complain about the way they look. In contrast, there are some people who take pride in their skin and wear it with confidence. They don’t want to change anything about it, rather, they flaunt it like a jewel. One of these people is Winnie Harlow. She’s a Canadian model who developed a prominent form of a skin condition called Vitiligo at the age of four.


Struggles with Vitiligo

Harlow’s real name is Chantelle Brown- Young, and she was born on July 24, 1994. She was bullied from a very young age because of her Vitiligo, was called names like cow, zebra and a lot other derogatory slurs. Further, she was isolated and recently shared stories of how she felt alienated. Also, people used to ignore her and stay away from her, as they thought that her skin condition was contagious.

Consequently, she changed schools various times as this verbal harassment didn’t stop. She finally dropped out of high school once she started having suicidal thoughts.

“I got hurt and it was embarrassing. Nobody asked if I wanted the skin condition. I didn’t ask for it. Yet I was alienated for it.”

The Sun

Guts over fear

She made a decision for herself and embraced her skin. No matter how difficult it had been to get over the fear and shame.

“Everyone asks me what the turning point was but it was just me making the effort to focus on my opinion of myself. ‘I was like, wait I don’t actually think I’m ugly – I think I’m beautiful. So where did I get this idea I wasn’t? From someone else. Now I’ve learnt to just listen to yourself.”


Speakers’ Corner

There is beauty in everything and you don’t have to fit into anybody’s mould. Be your own person. Decide for yourself what beauty is, rather than looking up a magazine or any model. Know it in your heart and believe in yourself.

Career as a model

Daily Mail

Winnie is a successful model and was discovered by America’s Next Top Model host, Tyra Banks on Instagram. Also, she was the first Canadian ever to be cast on ANTM.
She is the current brand ambassador of Barcelona based fashion brand, Desigual.

Harlow got featured in many fashion magazines, and also in music videos by Eminem, Beyonce and JMSN.

She went ahead to win the Gala Spa Beauty Idol award, 2015 and Portuguese GQ Role Model of the year.

She also believes that there is beauty in everything and her skin condition does not define her.


Do you know?

According to the VR Foundation, 65-95 million people on an average are suffering from this skin condition. Numbers may fluctuate a little as it is an underreported disease.

A very important fact that needs to be addressed is:

Vitiligo is not contagious.

People in many parts of the world, because of a lack of awareness, think that they might get this condition by merely touching someone with Vitiligo.

Make people aware

Keeping in view the enormous stigma attached to it, people must be made aware of what Vitiligo really is. This will go a long way in saving people from having to face those awkward stares and go through what Winnie did. There are millions of people out there suffering from the same skin condition and people might even be treating them the same way or possibly, even worse.

In fact, as a step in this direction, Harlow went ahead and posted a video on youtube titled Vitiligo: A skin condition, not a life changer.

“I have vitiligo. A kid today told me “I think God couldn’t choose which colour to make you, you are beautiful like the rainbow!”

Abilities Magazine


Edited by Preetika Dubey

Ashi Bajpai

Content writer

19, Gallivanter, Belives in equity and not equality. Love humans, Food, Allegories and Dogs. Currently pursuing BBA from BSSS. Believe in yourself and BE YOU. The world will adjust.

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