You may or may not know the name Winnie Harlow, but you will certainly recognize her if you see her. She is the global phenomenon who has graced major magazine covers and strutted down many a runway as a top model for designers from around the world.
Winnie Harlow was born in Jamaica, raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is a proud Canadian woman, who is 22 years old. What you might not realize is that Winnie has a skin condition known as Vitiligo, which she has lived with since the age of four.
Her life might seem to you as surreal. Her friends include Drake, Kanye West, Nick Cannon (of AMT) and her current boyfriend is none other than the famous Formula 1 race car driver Lewis Hamilton. But her story is anything but a fairy tale, as she struggled with Vitiligo most of her life.
You see Vitiligo causes patchy depigmentation of the skin. These blotchy, inconsistent white patches on her skin were something that kids at school didn’t understand. She was abnormal in their eyes, and was even called Zebra, or Spotted Cow during her youth. Winnie struggled with thoughts of suicide in her teens, until she decided to embrace her condition and to be herself.
She is the classic poster woman for the type of campaign I’m creating, because she has steadfastly chosen to defy the odds and not hide her condition. Winnie chooses not to wear any makeup and has blossomed into one of the top models and designer spokespersons in the world.
She has defied all of the stereotypes of how women should dress and wear makeup to hide any blemishes that God forbid, might be perceived as un-natural. As she herself so eloquently put it, “A lot of people have a story or a background, but mine is painted on my body.”
Her inspirational rise to success serves as a reminder to those of us who are quick to judge a person by the color or condition of their skin. We are all human beings, with feelings, a sense of self worth. If we strip that away by being cruel and mean, then we are missing the essence of being yourself.
The take away here is to simply #BeYourself, for Winnie that is now choosing to not cover up her condition and embrace her beauty. If she can do it, so can you.