Beauty in The Eye of The Beholder – by Coniah Davis

If you have not heard of the model Winnie Harlow then you are definitely missing out. Thanks to Harlow’s unique natural beauty she has been an inspiration in the modeling industry and social media. Prior to gracing the runway Harlow’s story began in the Greater Toronto Area. 

Harlow was diagnosed with vitiligo at age 4, a skin condition where the cells that produce melanin are destroyed causing certain areas of the skin to turn pale and stop functioning. When she was younger over time the depigmentation in her skin began to become visible, so when she would go to school she was bullied. 

“When I got older, it got harder because when kids get older, they get meaner, so I went through a lot of bullying and people calling me, like, ‘zebra’ or ‘cow,’ so it was really hard growing up” Harlow says. She was bullied so much it caused her to drop out of middle school and began to get homeschooled. Despite the emotional and physical abuse Harlow faced she knew it was not her skin that was the problem, it was the way that people treated her. Her family always treated her like a normal person and did not make her feel like there was something wrong.

Harlow is now a successful fashion model and has used her platform to talk about vitiligo and encourage people like her to not let the way they look define them. Harlow’s distinct look broke into an industry that glorifies conventional beauty standards. The industry can seem one dimensional because of the lack of diversity. It is women like Winnie Harlow that are paving the way and changing the unrealistic standards the industry and social media portray women. 

There is nothing wrong with the long statuesque figure of the models in the fashion industry or on social media, but because that is the gold standard there is a lack of inclusivity and diversity. A woman who is 5’8 and 200 pounds is less likely to be seen on the runway. The industry must evolve in order to build confidence in all types of women. Many women like Winnie Harlow do not see themselves as models because they are not the women they see in the fashion magazines. 

“My confidence was more of a fake-it-until-you-make-it kind of thing. I tried to build my own confidence and not rely on the opinions of others” says Harlow. Social media has a large influx of people such as Tiktok that now it is more common to see diverse groups of people. That is helping the industry evolve because anyone can be an influencer now and it exposes them to the world of modeling. That is how Harlow was first discovered and now she has brought in a new look to the media. 

Everyone has different features that make them unique to their culture, ethnicity, or religion. Not only should tall, long legged, thin women be included, but women you see every day in society. There are designers in the industry working to create more diverse runway shows. There needs to be more shows like Rihanna’s Savage Fenty. She includes women of all races and sizes to represent that anyone can wear and look beautiful in lingerie. Barrier breakers like Winnie Harlow should continue to put themselves out there and take the industry by storm. Those women are paving the way and helping not only the fashion community, but social media change its ways. The media is slowly evolving, but more people need to work in order to remove the conventional standard society sets on women.


Photo by Dominik kielbasa on Unsplash

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