Winnie Harlow is currently one of the world’s top models, working regularly with big names like Dior and Marc Jacobs.
The 23-year-old also happens to have vitiligo – a condition which means that parts of her skin lose its pigmentation, resulting in white, pale patches all over her body.
While skin conditions like vitiligo can sometimes have a big impact on a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing, it’s not life-threatening or physically painful – and that’s why Harlow is taking issue with tabloids calling her a ‘Vitiligo Sufferer’.
The model posted a snap of a newspaper cutting on her Instagram, explaining in her caption why she’s offended by the wording.
Harlow writes: "I’m not a ‘Vitiligo Sufferer’. I’m not a ‘Vitiligo model’. I am Winnie. I am a model. And I happen to have Vitiligo.
"Stop putting these titles on me or anyone else. I AM NOT SUFFERING! If anything I’m SUCCEEDING at showing people that their differences don’t make them WHO they are!"
And she can’t really be argued with, because Harlow’s modelling career certainly is going from strength to strength. Not only that, but the photo in question comes from a recent holiday she enjoyed – further evidence of just how much she is enjoying life.
This is another step in Harlow’s mission to debunk the stigmas around vitiligo. For example, she gave a TED talk in 2014 describing how she was bullied and alienated as a child, but now as an adult she has begun to see the beauty in everything and has grown to love her skin.
Now Harlow wants to change how we talk about vitiligo, and on top of this change the arbitrary beauty standards society has in place.
She adds at the end of her Instagram post: "Do you see me suffering? The only thing I’m suffering from are your headlines and the closed minds of humans who have one beauty standard locked into their minds when there are multiple standards of beauty!"
Within a day of being posted, Harlow’s post calling out the tabloids had already racked up some 207k likes. The fact it has so quickly gone viral shows that it’s struck a note with many people – which emphasises that vitiligo probably isn’t the only condition we need to consider in terms of re-thinking the language we use to speak about those who have it.
- By Prudence Wade, Press Association