ANTM: CHANTELLE BROWN-YOUNG
Chantelle Brown-Young (also known as Winnie Harlow) is raising the bar on beauty standards and causing us all to do a double take. This 20-year- old Toronto native is breaking the fashion industry’s cookie-cutter mold after appearing on Cycle 21 of America’s Next Top Model. She has vitiligo, a skin condition which has resulted in white patches on her dark skin. Made well-known by Michael Jackson, vitiligo causes depigmentation of the skin. “I have my flaws, but I love them and embrace them, they are mine,” she said in a 2011 video called “Vitiligo: A Skin Condition not a Life Changer.”
Though she was not the season winner, she has not stopped working since departing the show. She’s the star of global fashion brand Desigual’s fall campaign. Chantelle’s social media accounts reveal
she has waltzed down several catwalks, starred in a music video, and photographed by the incomparable Nick Knight, who has lensed everyone from Karlie Kloss to Kate Moss.
We are watching her dreams come to fruition with bated breath. It is difficult to imagine someone could look at this stunning woman and
see her as anything but amazing. The world is full of people with varied perceptions of beauty, and sometimes the dissenting opinions can be unkind and cut deeply. Cruelly bullied in her youth and nicknamed “zebra,” and “cow,” Chantelle admits to considering suicide due to low self-esteem. Then, she made a decision. “I just decided I’m going to tell myself that I am beautiful and this is how I may be for the rest of my life. I need to accept it, embrace it and enjoy it,” Brown-Young told the New York Post. When she made that decision, everything for her life began to change.
Though she was rejected by every modelling agency in Toronto, photographers, designers, and runway directors discovered the magnificence that the agency’s narrow vision missed. Unrepresented, she was invited to walk in several Fashion Art Toronto shows in 2013. The same year, America’s Next Top Model producers caught wind of Chantelle fever. Once discovered by Tyra Banks, Chantelle was requested to compete in the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model. “A lot of people have a story and a background, but mine is painted on my body,” she says in her plea video for the reality show.
Chantelle Brown-Young proves self-confidence and determination are key to change perceptions of body image and beauty standards. The beauty describes herself as a ‘vitiligo spokesmodel’ on Instagram, where she has more than 300,000 followers rallying behind her as she continues to push boundaries and challenge the fashion industry and social stereotypes of what it means to be beautiful.
She is truly molding the definition of what is traditionally considered stylish, beautiful, and high fashion. Chantelle is among a number of esteemed peers who are also not allowing the societal norms stop
their aspirations. Sierra Sandison, the winner of Miss Idaho 2014,
proudly rocked her insulin pump during the swimsuit competition, and body builder Blake Beckford, who suffers from ulcerative colitis, was unapologetic and shameless as he posed shirtless with his colostomy bag.
“It’s my genuine opinion that it’s those quirks that make you gorgeous,” Chantelle says. “Let whatever quirks you have shine.”