by Raveen Johnson
This world can be extremely cruel, especially to people who are not seen as normal or pretty. Supermodel Winnie Harlow is one of those people who was teased and bullied because of the way she looks, but now the joke is on all of her bullies because she has prevailed in ways that even she did not see coming.
Harlow is a young, vibrant, and beautiful African American woman. The 21-year-old was initially seen on the hit television show “America’s Next Top Model” for the twenty-first cycle, but now her modeling career has expanded far beyond that. She has graced major runways while also landing spots in some of the biggest magazines in the world such as Complex, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour. Ms. Harlow was even featured on the website for Vogue Italia.
Her success is not only incredible, but inspiring. All of her aforementioned accolades are that much sweeter because she never let her differences deter her from reaching the top. You see, Harlow attained a skin condition called vitiligo at the age of four, and she has had it ever since. When she was younger, the kids called her hurtful names such as “cow” and “zebra” because of the spots on her skin that the condition caused, but Harlow did not let it break her down.
From the outside looking in, the world of modeling seems like a cruel one. From body weight to skin complexion to hair length, everything has to be on point or you just are not fit for the job and, according to her peers in her younger days, nothing about her screamed “model” once the lighter spots took over her skin. Fortunately, Harlow knew that vitiligo did not make her as different as everyone thought it did. In fact, it ended up making her a hero to most.
There is a small percentage of people in the world with vitiligo, but the world is big and that number is still significant. Harlow serves as a reminder to those people that they are beautiful regardless of what society wants them to believe, and she did that by pushing forward even when people wanted to hold her back. The funny thing is that being a model was not even one of Harlow’s biggest dream; she wanted to have a talk show or work for a magazine. Her own success ended up blowing her initials dreams out of the water, but now she has the opportunity to reach those goals as well.
One thing the young supermodel mentioned in an interview was that she wished she would have told her younger self that things would get better. At that age, in the midst of all of the hurtful things that children can say, it was hard to see the light, but now Harlow is that light. She is inspiring millions of people simply by staying on top while also staying humble.
To see a young, Black woman overcoming a double whammy of adversity is beyond inspirational—it is life-changing. It just reminds everyone in our community that we are fully capable of rising above what everyone else thinks will keep us down.
“It was really hard growing up. I had to grow thick,” Winnie said. “People make fun of you and you have to learn how to deal or you break down. I’m not trying to break down so, I have to deal” (www.upworthy.com).
We can deal.
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