At the age of 4, Winnie Harlow developed what is known at vitiligo, a condition that causes discolored skin blotches.

As the cells that produced her melanin died, her self-confidence started to die with it. The kids at school were merciless about ridiculing Winnie’s appearance, treating her like a monster. She was called a “zebra,” a “cow,” and countless other cruel names. She felt like her skin had marked her as a beast rather than the beautiful girl she knew she was inside.

The bullying became so bad that she had to drop out of public school and resort to homeschooling. However, homeschooling turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it was there that she discovered her true identity.

“It was possibly the best thing that could have happened, because I found a rejuvenated sense of self,” said Harlow. “I learned to love who I am despite what anyone would say about or to me. This gave me the courage to really stand up to anyone or any obstacle in my life.”

With her boosted self-esteem, she decided to dive into a career in entertainment journalism, and then she switched gears to modeling when she met a photographer from Toronto who saw something special in her. That’s when Harlow began using social media to build a fan-base of followers who loved the unique beauty she brought to her pictures.

From her spotty face…

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To her speckled stomach…

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Winnie started to show the world who she really was, and that she was proud of the skin she was in.

Her Instagram account started to grow like crazy, and that’s around the time that she learned about America’s Top Model’s next casting call. Winnie asked her followers to tag Tyra Banks in their posts in order to get Banks to see her photos.

AND they got her attention alright!

It wasn’t long before she got a call from the producers who wanted her on the show.

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“Initially I didn’t believe it, but I followed through and ended up being on the show for season 21,” said Harlow. “After Tyra gave me that opportunity it was my time.”

Though Harlow finished 6th on the show, America’s Next Top Model exposed her to an international audience for the first time and her career exploded with opportunities.

Her stunning photos, fierce catwalk, and big personality made a huge impression on the high fashion world.

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Today, Winnie is the face of Desigual, a Spanish fashion label. She’s also been involved in recent high-end photo shoots for Vogue and Diesel.
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BAM! Take that bullies. Looks like the girl you labeled a “cow” is the new fashion “IT” girl with over a MILLION Instagram followers.

Through her success, Winnie wants to shatter the fashion stereotype by showing the world that different can be beautiful.

“I want to see different faces on the covers of magazines, the stars of movies, featured on billboards,” she says. “It’s time we open the market up and embrace people from all walks of life.”

Now that’s the kind of beauty this world needs to see!

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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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