The Story Of Winnie Harlow: From 'Cow' To Cover Girl.


From 'cow' to cover girl, model Winnie Harlow is changing beauty standards. Canadian model Winnie Harlow, born Chantelle Brown-Young, did not have an easy childhood. At the age of four she was diagnosed with vitiligo, an incurable skin pigmentation disease that causes colorless patches to develop on a person's body.

Winnie Harlow: Her Emotional Story With Vitiligo

Born to Jamaican parents and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Chantelle Winnie was just four years old when 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 home schooled,” Harlow recalls.
(photo from Winnie Harlow Instagram)

“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,” 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.

Winnie Harlow Her Emotional Story With Vitiligo

A meteoric rise

Growing up in Etobicoke, on the western periphery of Toronto, Winnie faced her fair share of bullying, with her peers calling her nasty names and, on some occasions, being physically abusive. “I don’t think my skin condition affected my self-esteem as much as the people around me affected my self-esteem,” says the twenty-year old. “It was other people’s opinions.”
“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 currently being brand ambassador for the Barcelona-based casual clothing brand Desigual.
“I personally don’t know why I’m seen as a role model. I like to call myself more an inspiration if anything. I’m happy to inspire your seven-year-old child, but I do not want to be her role model,’ she admitted.
“What do you find beautiful? Find beauty in everything, because even though it may seem cliche’, everything has beauty.”
 (photo from Winnie Harlow Instagram)

"A chance encounter with Toronto journalist Shannon Boodram led to a YouTube video about Winnie and her condition. The video quickly garnered more than 150,000 hits. It was Boodram who encouraged Winnie, who was just sixteen years old at the time, to consider modelling.
“She called me and told me that I should keep modelling, that the camera loved me and that I was a natural,” says Winnie. “She actually didn’t believe that had been my first photo shoot.”
Winnie soon found herself the subject of a media frenzy with features published in The Daily Mail and Access Hollywood but it was in 2014 that Winnie became a household name when she competed on Tyra Banks’ legendary America’s Next Top Model."
 Canadian Model Chantelle Winnie empowers others to embrace their differences.
Vitiligo affects one in every one hundred people. It is a disorder in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body and is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of an individual’s own body. With vitiligo, the immune system destroys melanocytes, the cells that make pigment in the skin.
Diagnosis of vitiligo carries many implications for those living with the disorder. Most will embark on a combined treatment of traditional and alternative medications and a course of light therapy, in which patients are exposed to ultraviolet A (UVA) or UVB light.
The emotional aspects of living with vitiligo are very real but often overlooked. Many children who have the disorder face egregious teasing and bullying. The disorder can affect people’s emotional and psychological wellbeing with many people reporting feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, shame and depression. Young people in particular are prone to bouts of anxiety, depression and feelings of alienation. Children and young adults tend to be image conscious and can find the disorder and its symptoms devastating.
"The emotional aspects of living with vitiligo are very real but often overlooked. Many children who have the disorder face egregious teasing and bullying."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

In an industry rife with outdated stereotypes of beauty, Winnie is redefining global standards of beauty. “I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” says Winnie, who is the face of global fashion
brand, Desigual.
Many people are slow to embrace change and are fearful of anything outside the norm but, in Winnie’s own words, it is these differences that make us unique and authentic. Striving to make fashion less aspirational and more inspirational, Winnie continues to be her true self and inspire people around
the world.

“I always say you should focus on your own opinion of yourself, rather than the opinions of others.”


For more on this skin condition and others, click here.

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