Why Model Winnie Harlow Is Inspiring Women Everywhere

17/09/2014 13:23 | Updated 20 May 2015

From Cara Delevingne's appearance on the Topshop catwalk to the Chrissie Hynde-inspired rock chicks seen at Tom Ford's show, there's been no shortage of striking images from London Fashion Week this season.

winnie harlow

For me, the most poignant and meaningful moment came on the final day of the Spring/Summer 2015 shows, when 19-year-old model and former America's Next Top Model contestant Chantelle Brown-Young walked down the runway for Ashish.

Chantelle, who now goes by the name of Winnie Harlow, has got vitiligo - a skin condition that leaves white patches over the body caused by loss of pigment. It doesn't hurt and it's not life-threatening - but it looks different.

Whether you're a model on the catwalk or not, looking different isn't always easy. I've had vitiligo since I was a child and although my condition has never been severe, I've had to answer my fair share of questions about it - and stock up on factor 50 sun cream before every holiday (the lack of pigment in the skin means it's more likely to burn.)

Growing up I've learned to love my white patches and more recently, many of them have started to fade. But like Winnie, many people with this condition can't hide from vitiligo - and why should they?

After her appearance on ANTM, Winnie spoke to the Canadian press about how she's embraced her skin.

winnie harlow

"If someone was to hire Cara Delevingne or Jourdan Dunn, they're looking for that person and they're looking for those features," she told the Edmonton Journal.

"And my features are just as distinct as Cara's beautiful, striking eyes. And [if] someone's going to want her for her beautiful, striking eyes, people are definitely going to want me for my striking skin."

It's this positive attitude that has inspired others, too.

"There are a lot of people who are very happy, very proud, and very surprised, of course, to see someone that has the same skin condition as them going after their dreams of modelling.

"I actually read a comment yesterday that said: 'I always wanted to be a model and I never thought it was possible with vitiligo.' And I'm like: 'Hey, I remember when I thought the same thing.' I'm happy I'm going for my dreams and showing people that they can go for theirs as well."

While looking beautiful in a designer's new collection is what most models are hired to do, Winnie's presence at London Fashion Week went way beyond this.

She reminded women everywhere that beauty isn't defined by perfection - it's about feeling comfortable and confident in your own skin - no matter how it looks.



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