WINNIE HARLOW: THE DEPTH OF A PLACE CALLED BEAUTIFUL
Over years, women have subscribed to enhancement and surgeries to make themselves more physically appealing. It seems like the quest of being or looking beautiful is all channelled to a vague idea. Beauty is skin deep and as much as we have been made to believe that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It also lies as much in the eyes of the individual.
Growing up in Etobicoke, on the western periphery of Toronto, Winnie faced her fair share of bullying, with her peers calling her nasty names and, on some occasions, being physically abusive. “I don’t think my skin condition affected my self-esteem as much as the people around me affected my self-esteem,” says Winnie. This all happened when she noticed white patches of skin appear on different parts of her body and she was diagnosed with Vitiligo.
Vitiligo affects one in every one hundred people. It is a disorder in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body and is thought to be an autoimmune disorder. 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. The disorder can affect people’s emotional and psychological well-being with many people reporting feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, shame and depression. Young people, in particular, are prone to bouts of anxiety, depression and feelings of alienation.
She has also revealed the number of times she nursed suicidal thoughts until she had a chance encounter with Toronto journalist Shannon Boodram led to a YouTube video about Winnie and her condition. The video quickly garnered more than 150,000 hits. It was Boodram who encouraged Winnie, who was just sixteen years old at the time, to consider modelling.
“She called me and told me that I should keep 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.”
Winnie soon found herself the subject of a media frenzy with features published in The Daily Mail and Access Hollywood but it was in 2014 that Winnie became a household name when she competed on Tyra Banks’ legendary America’s Next Top Model. She has proceeded to be a Canadian fashion model and public spokesperson on the skin condition vitiligo. A perceived flaw became the foundation of her favour.