Chantelle Brown-Young, one of American’s Next Top Model‘s cycle 21 competitors, is fierce. She’s beautiful, outgoing, and she has a skin condition called vitiligo. Making an exception for Brown-Young, Tyra essentially plucked the Toronto-born model because she has such a captivating, mesmerizing social media presence. Overcoming fears of rejection and bullying took years, but now Chantelle Brown-Young is confident and ready to win ANTM. I am personally supporting this girl all the way, because it’s a rarity to find such diversity in the modeling industry, and Chantelle is who we need to show the world that beauty is not a formula; it comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. No one with vitiligo (or any other kind of “abnormality”) should feel the need to hide their skin.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Chantelle Brown-Young said, “[Kids] called me a lot of names like ‘cow’ and ‘zebra.’ I also got into some physical altercations. But I feel like I had to go through these things to make myself stronger.” And stronger she became.
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Vitiligo is considered to be an autoimmune disorder which causes skin pigment cells to die or not function well. It occurs in about one percent of the population, and there are some treatments available, but they are invasive and dangerous (one treatment is exposure to UV light). Chantelle explains, “I tried to tell myself I was beautiful. I didn’t believe it at the time, but I tried to tell myself that. 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.” It was a rough road for the model, and although she has been in runway shows and has an impressive portfolio, she has yet to be signed by a modeling agency.
Could it be because of her vitiligo? It’s unclear, but as of now, there are no high-fashion models with the skin condition. Vitiligo is certainly rare, but considering the history of the modeling industry, it’s no surprise that someone who appears differently has never been given this type of opportunity. It’s sad to read Brown-Young’s experience as a young girl and how others reacted to her, but this harassment happens all the time, and not just with vitiligo. Lupus, scars, birth marks, or psoriasis are just a few skin conditions that make individuals feel very “other.”
Which is why Chantelle Brown-Young’s spot in cycle 21 is so imperative. In the interview, Brown-Young states, “I definitely see myself as a huge inspiration. The other day I had someone message me and say that he was born with only a little bit of his hand and finding my Instagram page really helped him know that yes, he is different but that he doesn’t have to hide his hand. Those kinds of stories make me feel amazing.” And they ARE amazing.
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Whether Brown-Young wins ANTM (and I hope she does), or goes on to become a high-fashion model (which would be awesome), right now she is an incredible role-model for all individuals who feel different, or “flawed.” Tyra’s praises and our enthusiasm are such positive and supportive reactions which show how desperately we have needed someone like Brown-Young. She’s here to show us that beauty is part of embracing who you are, and that beauty ideals are meant to be changed as we progress.
Watch a new episode of America’s Next Top Model this Monday at 9pm on the CW.
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(Image courtesy of the CW)