Woman with Vitiligo Proves Bullies of her Past Wrong as She Turns Top Model

Chantelle Brown-Young was teased in school, often called "zebra" or "cow" becuase of her skin condition, vitiligo. However, things began to change when a Toronto photographer encouraged her to model at 16. Her alter-ego-named Instagram (@winnieharlow) became an outlet for her modeling photos and soon enough, Tyra Banks contacted her to become a part of America's Next Top Model (ANTM).

Brown-Young's success began even before ANTM, however, as Desigual announced her as the face of its Autumn-Winter 2014 campaign. Her success has even gotten her a place in JMSN's "The One" music video.

The first episode of Banks' show featuring Brown-Young aired last night, but the entire phenomenon -- if it hasn't already accosted your Facebook News Feed -- refreshed the conversation of outer looks, inner personality, social acceptance and race.

In an era that seems to be producing younger generations more accepting of various racial issues, there are still plenty of stories to speak to the contrary. On one hand, shows like America's Next Top Model with personalities such as Brown-Young's, and even modeling agencies like UGLY, push us forward. Yet on the other, people still comment and criticize harshly when it comes to racial issues and bias in the media, especially when folded into the topic of Photoshop. And we haven't even touched on the topic of the body image that the fashion industry does or doesn't impress upon our young and impressionable children.

In any case, the fashion industry seems to be moving forward with the rest of us. We all have our own pace. But do you think this is a step forward? Is there a such thing as a martyr in fashion? In the context of society's racial issues? What more should or shouldn't be done when it comes to changing mindsets when it comes to how we look?

Fashion -- or at least Tyra -- is doing what it can. Can we say we're doing the same?

[via Bustle.com]

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12 Comments

Cagomoc Reed's picture

love this video has meaning to it, and put meaning to differences, FEARLESS!! lady your beautiful...

Rick Navarro's picture

Though i get the overarching message of this article and the plight of this girl's story, i still think it a shame that in order for the world to see this girls beauty, she has had to resort to over sexualizing herself in her work or in at least in what it displayed here.

Isn't kind of counter productive to show "how far we've come or how forward we are moving" by showing how much the same we really are? I can hear the same kids who called her "cow" when she was young, now grown up saying "shut up and take off your shirt". Isn't it the same? even if its in the name of "Fashion and Art"? and in her unfortunate insecurity she has played right in and obliged us all.

I feel horrible for this girl. It appears to me that she thinks that she'll be able to overcome the stigmas she's had placed over her by society, by overcoming them with an over sexualized image. I am really hoping for more depth in her work than what i have seen so far. If not, she's going to end up being another novelty item in our voracious appetite for something constantly "different". Of course until we are all over it, then she'll have to go right back to dealing with her insecurities by facing them head on and realizing that in spite of what society says about her exterior, true beauty can only be found within.

I work with these girls (models) everyday all day and the amount of pressure placed on them to be something they are not is immense. It kind of breaks my heart knowing the lessons this girl has waiting for her.

Anonymous's picture

I'm sorry women have to deal with people like you who assume that anytime they show their body there's a sexual innuendo.

Rick Navarro's picture

You're right Greg. I forgot that sex DOES'T sell. my bad.

Glen Grant's picture

The model is an adult. Being an adult means she has earned the right to make choices as to what work she does. We see what we want but we should never be quick to judge someone for something they do unless we have walked in their shoes.
For her ability to overcome adversity she should be given respect.

Anonymous's picture

Rick, your comment reminded me of a quote by Lori Deschene (founder of Tiny Buddha), in which she states: "The good news is that we can change how we interpret yesterday, how we view ourselves in response, and how we live today as a result."

I think that our past, especially when painful, can help us morph into wonderful beings, if we choose to let it. It is amazing that this lovely woman has made a living for herself and has decided to embrace her Vitiligo.

However I must agree with you, that the way in which she has gained attention is terribly sad. She has been made a spectacle out of, something for the crowd to gawk at, the same way we used to stare at people with deformities in the circus many years ago.

There is something very animalistic and base about that. Our voyeuristic nature, that is. Sadly, I do not think that it is something that will change anytime soon, or if it will at all.

Thankfully we can share our views and thankfully whenever we are about to lose all respect for humanity, we stumble across little gems like for instance, your comment, which makes me regain hope in society again.

Never stop speaking your mind. Some do listen.

Regards,

Adam Ottke's picture

I'm not so sure of that (but still remaining open to opinions and the possible malleability of my own)... We can look at the "circus freak" phenomenon and say this is that. Or we can say that putting these images front and center helps get society used to what's not considered "normal." You could say the same of anything and everything that looked "different" at one point in time from transgender people to people with different races, etc.

So how much she's being made a spectacle of really depends on the audience on a per-person basis. There will always be a-holes. And there will always be forward-thinking or polite and kind people... If we're going to say SHE is gawked at, are not all models and celebrities gawked at? Or is it because of her vitiligo that she is gawked at? Then we get a little hypocritical...

I'm not sure how to look at this, but you do bring up good points... And that's the whole reason this needs to/should be a conversation...

Personally, I feel it's great that she feels comfortable putting herself out there. I think anyone should be able to feel comfortable doing that without society's criticisms. And if this helps people get used to one more "difference" between us, all the power to her!

LA M's picture

Good points...I kinda felt the same.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I would have to disagree with you. She isn't sexualizing herself any more than any other model, including the ones in your own portfolio.

Rick Navarro's picture

Clearly we are not looking at the same portfolio's. The women in my portfolio are not touching themselves or wearing sexually suggestive clothing or pouring liquid all over their naked bodies, (SO CLICHE by the way) but you and Greg, probably have an affinity for that type of work. I do not. So i get where you are coming from. I don't object to fine art photography however this would not fall in that category. Done well, its amazing and has much less to do about sex than form, shape, space and light. I'm actually trying see if people can get more original with their work then showing a naked women in suggestive posing, framing, etc to evoke a response. Its cheap and hack work.

Sure you could argue perspective and opinion but i think i was pretty clear about that in opening comment. Judging by most of the responses on the page it seems like your opinion was apart of the minority so in effect most can see what i am point to and where i was coming from.

Now we would also be able to gain a little more perspective on where you are coming from but since you don't actually have any work up to speak of giving you any more time or merit is a bit of a waist.

Weren't people supposed to have portfolio to back up there comments on the new version of FS to avoid people from talking crap??? smh

Lee Christiansen's picture

Models often find fame because of their "look" whether it be big eyes, large chest, trim figure, voluptuous lips...

Perhaps this beautiful girl has decided her "look" is unique in the same way - and despite us potentially thinking she has overcome some adversity - she merely regards her body as something beautiful and something to work with in her chosen career.

Should we feel that there is something sad when a short person models, or a person who wears glasses (so obviously suffering from an eye condition) models for a spectacles manufacturer...?

Let's stop looking at people who are different from the norm as if they are overcoming some terrible plight.

None of us are "normal" it's just that society chooses to define a set of parameters which it considers convenient. Anyone outside those parameters who is doing well, we consider to be challenging their adversity or overcoming a terrible plight.

There will be a day when people look at these pictures and not see pigmentation - they'll just see a beautiful girl. Or better - they'll just see a girl.

Justin Haugen's picture

I think it's perfectly fine for her take ownership of her sexuality and expression, and for us to either embrace or reject it.