Though she may have been booted from the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model, this model is definitely making waves in the fashion industry.
Chantelle Brown-Young, aka Winnie Harlow, recently hit the runway during New York Fashion Week as the new face of not just Diesel and Desigual, but as the new face of fashion itself—due to her unique beauty.
At the age of 4, she started to develop vitiligo—a rare skin disease that occurs when portions of the skin lose their pigment due to the dying of skin pigment cells. The cause of this disease is unknown, and less than 1% of the world’s population has it. The disease is characterized by having some parts of the skin have a lighter pigment than other parts, particularly around body orifices, hands, and face.
This rare disease was one that Michael Jackson famously had, in which the skin on his entire body lost its pigment. Another notable case of this disease was Michaela DePrince, who despite being discriminated against for her skin, managed to become a successful ballerina.
Just like Michael Jackson and Michaela DePrince, Chantelle Winnie didn’t let her disease stop her from fulfilling her dreams. There were some hindrances along the way, however. Growing up, she had to put up with her peers calling her mean things like “zebra” and “cow” because of her skin. She even admitted to contemplating suicide at some point, but as she grew older, she somehow found the strength to carry on, love herself, and accept her flaws.
She first started to get attention from Shannon Boodram, a YouTuber with whom she made a music video with called “Natural Me”. From then on, she started blowing up on the internet, gaining multiple followers on Instagram, which is where she caught the eyes of none other than Tyra Banks. “The moment I laid eyes on Chantelle, I wanted her on Top Model,” said Tyra. “Her beauty is undeniable and her skin breaks down barriers of what is considered beautiful.” Her time on ANTM was short—she was the second contestant eliminated—which made her feel “stabbed in the back.” But she has no regrets, because she didn’t want to be a reality star; she wanted to be a model.
People have branded her as a “spokesmodel” for vitiligo, but she doesn’t want to be seen as just that. “If one day I’m all black I’m still a model. If one day I’m all white I’m still a model. I am not my skin. I am a model with a skin condition.”