Beauty acceptance has hit a new level with Desigual’s hiring of Chantelle Brown-Young for their Autumn 2014 campaign. Brown-Young, who models under the name Chantelle Winnie, has vitiligo, a rare skin condition that causes skin depigmentation in patches.
The Canadian model was first diagnosed with vitiligo at four years old, and watched as pale patches developed all over her body. Parents of her grade school friends forbade them from playing with her in fear that they would catch her condition. Not that it’s contagious: vitiligo is thought to be caused by an immune system variation. But different is scary, and as she went through middle and high school, Chantelle was subject to a lot of harrassment.
But when she was sixteen, Chantelle was approached by a Toronto photographer who encouraged her to model, and found her way to feeling beautiful. And she created an alter ego to give her a confidence boost. “Chantelle Winnie is my birth name,” she told Today. “Chantelle Winnie Harlow, I call her my Sasha Fierce [Beyonce’s alter ego]. She comes out when it’s time to work, time to model. She’s an extra boost of confidence or diva. I feel like I have her with me everywhere I go.”
And she boosted herself on social media: on her Instagram account, she asked her followers to tag Tyra Banks on modelling photos she was especially proud of. And it worked – she was cast on season 21 of America’s Next Top Model. And though she was eliminated from the competition, unlike many of the contestants – and winners, even – the relatively inexperienced nineteen year old has landed a major fashion campaign:
One of the awesome things about this campaign, posters of which are all over NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood, is that the art direction basically treats Chantelle’s pigmentation as another pattern to work with. Given the general symmetry of Chantelle’s pale patches, they work with the clothing.
None of this is lost on Chantelle: “They had a new line that had a lot of dots,” she told the New York Post. “And some of my skin patterns are dots. In the campaign video, there’s a part where the dot on a scarf lines up perfectly with a dot I have on my waist, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever.” But why read an interview when you can watch the video?
It will be interesting to watch Chantelle’s career as it develops: while her skin condition makes her an outsider to “normal” teens, it also makes her instantly recognizable, which is a boon to fashion marketers. And she’s truly model-beautiful, which always helps… She’s already caught the eye of Nick Knight, who shot video of her for Show Studio. So maybe she could rise to the top? Who knows, but she’s already busted through one beauty barrier.