Vitiligo is a skin condition that affects nearly one in every hundred people to varying degrees. Those with this autoimmune disorder experience an overly uneven skin tone, with white patches appearing on different parts of the body. Health Insight notes that, “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”.
People living with the disorder are subject to the many implications of a vitiligo diagnosis. Ongoing treatment is generally recommended and can involve both traditional and alternative methods, with patients will oftentimes taking medications while being exposed to ultraviolet A (UVA) or UVB light treatments.
“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 six year old. “It was other people’s opinions.”Winnie Harlow, Supermodel
Vitiligo is something that is still being researched and patients often experience emotional aspects that can lead to mental health issues. Because of how “different” they look, many children with the disorder are bullied and teased, which can damage their emotional and psychological well-being. When coming to terms with this condition and people’s reactions to how they look, a lot of patients have reported feeling embarrassed, anxious, depressed and even ashamed. People with the disorder often also feel alienated, particularly in our image obsessed society.
A meteoric rise
Jamaican Canadian Winnie Harlow grew up in Etobicoke, just outside of Toronto, Ontario. During her school years, she faced her fair share of bullying including name calling, and was even subject to physical abuse by her peers. “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 six year old. “It was other people’s opinions.”
When she was 16, Winnie had a chance encounter with a journalist in Toronto who interviewed her about her condition for YouTube. The video went viral and it was this journalist by the name of Shannon Boodram, who convinced Winnie to try modelling. “She called me and told me that I should be 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.”
Soon after, Winnie was at the center of a media frenzy surrounding her beautiful and unique look, and she became a household name though competing on Tyra Banks’ immensely popular show America’s Next Top Model.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Although things are starting to shift slowly, the beauty industry today is still rife with unattainable and outdated stereotypes. However, Winnie is at the forefront of those who seek to redefine global beauty standards and make them more attainable and less rigid. “I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” says Winnie, who is the face of global fashion brand, Desigual.
People can be slow to embrace change and are often unaccepting and fearful of anything that they do not consider the norm, but it is our differences that make us unique, and that is where our true beauty lies.
“I always say you should focus on your own opinion of yourself, rather than the opinions of others.”Winnie Harlow
Leave a comment if you think women like Winnie can make lasting changes is the fashion and beauty industries?