“A lot of people have a story and a background, but mine is painted on my body,” Chantelle Brown-Young said in her America’s Next Top Model audition tape. The 20-year-old Canadian was chosen to be one of 14 contestants on this summer’s cycle of the reality competition, fulfilling her lifelong dream of breaking into the industry. But fast-forward to Monday night – the young model was cut for seeming “too tight” in photographs.
That doesn’t really matter, though – she’s already the star of global fashion brand Desigual’s fall campaign, with other shoots and projects in the works with esteemed photographers such as Nick Knight. How’d she manage that? Simply put, she’s different: at around four years old, Brown-Young was diagnosed with vitiligo, a condition that causes patchy depigmentation of the skin. And she’s blossomed. “I just decided I’m going to tell myself that I am beautiful and this is how I may be for the rest of my life. I need to accept it, embrace it and enjoy it,” Brown-Young told the New York Post.
It’s her confident, undaunted spirit – combined with her uncommon beauty – that has propelled her forward. Since returning home to Toronto after her last Top Model episode, she hasn’t stopped working (runways, editorial photo shoots, and ad campaigns including Desigual’s). All of this from a girl whose schoolyard years were filled with nicknames like “cow” and “zebra.”
Social media has also played a large part in her success: She has more than 245,000 followers on Instagram (the platform on which she was discovered by Tyra Banks), where she shares her new work as well as fan art that speaks to her remarkable persona.
She’s changing the definition of what is traditionally considered stylish, beautiful, and high fashion. She’s not cookie-cutter by any means, and that’s a good thing. And Brown-Young is one of a number of individuals who are not letting perceived flaws or handicaps hinder on-camera career aspirations. Sierra Sandison, the winner of Miss Idaho 2014, proudly sported her insulin pump during the competition’s swimsuit round and body builder Blake Beckford, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, was unashamed to pose shirtless with his colostomy bag. Once is a fluke, twice is coincidence, and three is a trend.
“It’s my genuine opinion that it’s those quirks that make you gorgeous,” Brown-Young has said. “Let whatever quirks you have shine.”
Think we just found a new role model.