Last year we discussed the lack of diversity on the runways during New York Fashion Week. We aimed to highlight the models of color that walked in the Fall/Winter 2014 shows, and ignite the discussion that asks the question…why isn’t there an equal or close to equal representation of color on the runway? As we close out New York Fashion Week for Fall 2015, there is one model that has managed to walk her way onto the runway thus increasing this pool of diversity, but not just as a model of color. She’s also a model with an auto-immune skin condition called Vitiligo, which destroys the skin’s pigmentation, patches at a time. It’s most noticeable in persons of darker complexions because it turns the skin white. Chantelle Brown-Young, who goes by her alter-ego name Winnie Harlow, is a model who deserves a spotlight because she chose to take one step – to love herself just as she is. Since taking that step, doors have opened up and her dreams are coming true! And we are so happy to be able to watch.
“The only person that can make you feel that you aren’t beautiful is you. You can’t let someone else lower your self-esteem because that’s what it is — self-esteem, you need to first love yourself before you have anybody else love you.”
~ Winnie Harlow, Today.com
Chantelle, who was born in Canada, likes to go by ‘Winnie Harlow’ because the name invites more confidence for her, as she told Today.com and we say hey whatever works! Confidence is hard enough to come by and I’m sure it’s a little more challenging when being diagnosed with a visible skin disorder at the age of 4. Last year the 20 year old was chosen to be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, and although she didn’t win the “Top Model” spot on the show, she has won in many other ways! Winnie walked in the Desigual 2015 fashion show in both New York Fashion Week and Madrid, and she’s also the Spanish brand’s ambassadress of it’s Spring/Summer 2015 campaign timely entitled “Say Something Nice.” See Winnie speak about herself to Desigual here.
“I had just changed schools ( in second grade) and befriended two girls who abruptly stopped talking to me after a few months…I asked them why and they said their parents told them not to play with me because they could catch my skin condition. I explained it’s not contagious but not everybody is going to understand.”
~ Winnie Harlow, Today.com
The 5’10 model is also a part of Diesel’s Spring/Summer 2015 fashion campaign which aids to promote ‘tolerance, equality, and unconditional love.’ We know this promotion is true of Diesel, as they have featured models and regular people who represent diversity in previous campaigns such as last year’s campaign which featured Jillian Mercado, the fashion editor who uses a wheelchair because of her disability. “We believe in showing different types of body and beauty – celebrating uncommon beauties, this is what Diesel is and always has been about,” said Diesel’s artistic director Nicola Formichetti to E! News.
“With this new campaign for SS15, we want to convey a message of inclusiveness and positivity – and all of our models are smiling which is unfortunately rare in this industry.”
~ Nicola Formichetti, E! News
Although Winnie has become an unofficial ambassador for diversity, she would rather not be labeled that based on her skin condition. She tells BBC:
“I could more label myself as a spokeswoman for happiness…Focus on your opinion of yourself and not the opinion others have of you.”
Whatever Winnie decides to label herself as, or not, we are glad to see her in ads and on the runway. It definently makes us happy! Her next dream is to grace the cover of Vouge America. I guess we better get ready!
Watch Winnie talk about herself and beauty here:
xoxo ~ Yana B.
Madrid Source: Getty Europe
NYFW Source: Getty North America
Much Music Video Awards, Toronto, Canada: Getty North America