Monday Muse: Winnie Harlow

Monday Muse: Winnie Harlow

For a long time, fashion models have fit a certain mould. But Winnie Harlow, the former America’s Next Top Model contestant whose uniquely stunning looks propelled her to fame, is bringing some much-needed change to major campaigns, countless runways and glossy magazine covers. Here’s why she’s our Monday Muse…

She was born with vitiligo… A long-term skin condition which causes patches of skin to lose their pigmentation. The cause is unknown, but it’s thought to be autoimmune and in the majority of cases it expands over time. Michael Jackson is the most well-known sufferer, but Harlow is the first example of a top model with the condition.

Growing up with the disease wasn’t easy… The model was subjected to endless torment and bullying as a young woman. She told Personal Health News, “I don’t think my skin condition affected my self-esteem as much as the people around me affected my self-esteem.” She confessed more recently to suicidal thoughts due to bullying in her teenage years.

But America’s Next Top Model became her big break…. When Tyra Banks spotted her on Instagram and cast her as the show’s first ever Canadian contestant in 2014, she placed 12th out of 14 finalists. But it was enough to secure a modelling contract with Spanish brand Desigual, where she fast became the face of the brand, and then walking for cult designer label Ashish later that year.

She’s now achieved top model status… The 23-year-old has shot covers for Marie Claire, Glamour, Elle and Harper's, as well as walking for brands including Coach, Marc Jacobs and Julien McDonald. Romantically linked to Lewis Hamilton and friends with Bella Hadid, Nicki Minaj and legendary photographer Nick Knight, she has secured her celebrity status too.

But it’s not all photo calls and magazine shoots…. Winnie has become a spokesperson for vitiligo as well as a body image campaigner, with an inspiring Ted Talk viewed by over 1,000,000 watchers and a Dove campaign promoting healthy self-esteem under her belt. She also uses her position to preach positivity – she recently told Grazia: “The only reason I didn't like my skin is because I was told that it wasn't what's right. Or I was told it wasn't normal. But who's to say that? Eventually I learned that my opinion of myself matters so much more than anyone else's and I wish I'd known it earlier. One day, I just didn't give a f**k anymore.”

And her accolades keep growing… She was voted one of the BBC’s top 100 Women in 2016 and starred in the video for Beyoncé’s much-lauded visual album, Lemonade. Propelled to fame by her looks, but kept there by her positive attitude, she’s the face to look out for, and will be for a long time to come.

Follow @WinnieHarlow

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