The Internet Is Calling One Model’s Skin Condition a ‘Trend’
Is it ever okay to call diversity a “trend”?
On Friday, the website Inquisitr.com tested the limits of taste by calling model Winnie Harlow’s skin condition “a ‘must have’ 2015 fashion accessory,” spurring an uproar on a Reddit message board. (Harlow has vitiligo, which causes loss of skin pigmentation in uneven patches.) “Translation: one model has vitiligo and is successful == super trendy everybody’s doing it!” said one Reddit commenter. Added another, “Yea i [sic] dont like seeing posts like this one that make light of it. It is not some trendy fashion statement. Its [sic] f*cking awful and people have no idea how hard it is to have to live with.”
Yet Harlow’s rise to prominence is anything but negative for the vitiligo community, or for those who want to bring more diversity to fashion.
When the 20-year-old model was growing up in Canada, she was ostracized by her peers. “I was singled out, I was bullied, I was alienated,” she said during a 2011 TEDxTeen talk. Now, the former America’s Top Model contestant, whose given name is Chantelle Brown-Young, is one of the fashion’s most in-demand beauties, walking the runway at NYFW and starring in multiple campaigns.
Michael Jackson brought awareness to vitiligo in 1993, when he revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that the condition was the reason for his increasingly pale appearance. Jackson used makeup to cover up his blotches. Harlow, on the other hand, has embraced them. Along the way, she has landed campaigns with Spanish label Desigual and more recently, Diesel. “When I was young, I was picked on for something that today I feel is amazing,” Harlow, who stars in the designer-denim label’s fall campaign, said during her TED talk. “One thing about me connects millions of people around the world.”
Diesel artistic director Nicola Formichetti agrees. “I’m obsessed with Winnie,” he told Yahoo Style. “She was bullied in high school because of her skin, and yet she’s one of the most beautiful girls in the world. We want to glorify her and make her even more powerful. We love diversity.”
To be sure, this is just the beginning for Harlow. As a poorly worded blog post can attest, there’s undoubtedly a long way to go. But here’s hoping her rise marks a legitimate shift in the way fashion brands present ideas of beauty.
More from Yahoo Style:
Chantelle Brown-Young Is An Unconventional Beauty
It’s Not Your Imagination! The Model Industry Is Changing
Once Again, CFDA Issues Health and Diversity Reminder