Winnie Harlow Just Became the First Model With Vitiligo to Walk in the VS Fashion Show and We're So Here for It
Winnie Harlow never ceases to amaze us. She’s made it her mission to represent people with skin conditions in the media, and last night she became the first model with vitiligo to walk the runway at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Vitiligo is a skin disorder that causes pigment-free patches of skin to appear randomly on the body. It happens when the cells responsible for skin pigment, melanocytes, are destroyed. The cause of vitiligo is unknown, but some experts believe it might be an autoimmune disease—meaning the immune system attacks the body’s pigment-producing cells.
Living with a skin condition like vitiligo can be isolating, but throughout her career, Harlow has proved that it doesn’t have to hold you back fom living life to the fullest.
The 24-year-old Toronto native made her industry debut on America’s Next Top Model in 2014. Since then, she’s walked countless runways, appeared in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade, and become a role model to her 4.6 million followers on Instagram. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, however, was always her dream.
“It’s the pinnacle of my career,” Harlow told Vogue in a September interview. “I told anyone [who] asked, ‘I want Victoria’s Secret!’”
She also said she wanted to use the opportunity as a chance to defy cultural beauty standards. “Why is there a stigma around being different when we’re all different?”
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She’s right, and that’s something that can be hard to remember if you're living with a skin condition. Chelsey Hamilton, who was diagnosed with vitiligo at age 17, know all about this. In a previous Health story, she explained her experience.
“I was stunned by my diagnosis. Whenever I'd had a medical issue before, I could just take a pill or see another doctor to make it better... To even out my skin tone, I globbed concealer on my face and slathered tanning lotions all over my body… My self-confidence plummeted. I felt ugly,” Hamilton wrote.
Eventually, Hamilton learned to accept her white patches, and thanks to the example of people like Harlow, others with skin conditions can find the strength to do the same.
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