Winnie Harlow recently did an Elle Canada editorial shoot and in her interview she made it very clear that she did not want to be the spokesperson for Vitiligo. Winnie wants the world to know that she is more than her skin and she is tired of talking about it.
Read from Elle Canada:
When Winnie was asked was she comfortable in her own skin she said this:
“As a child, I really hated it. I think, regardless of my skin condition, my mom is very conservative with dressing—like, when she’s helping me do laundry and she sees a thong, she’s like, ‘What is this dental floss in your laundry basket?’
With my skin, I have to avoid direct contact with the sun, so that combined with my mom being conservative meant I grew up wearing stockings under shorts and long sleeves under tank tops. It was kind of embedded in me that I was supposed to be covering up. As I grew up, people would still stare, but, I don’t know, me feeling uncomfortable just disappeared. I’d be walking out with friends and they’d be like, ‘Don’t you feel everyone staring?’ and I’d be like, ‘No, I actually don’t. I just don’t care.’”
Do you ever get tired of having to address all this?
“I’m very sick of talking about my skin.” There’s so much more to you than that. “Precisely. I am literally just a human. I have the same brain as you; there’s a skeleton under my skin just like yours. It’s not that serious.” On-set we talked about how as women of colour become more successful, you often become the only black person in the room.
Do you ever feel pressure to perform or speak on behalf of “all your people”?
“I don’t put pressure on myself. People try to put it on me—like I speak for women, for black women. There’s so many other pieces to me. I’m not a vitiligo spokesperson just because I have vitiligo. I don’t perm my hair anymore, but I’m not a natural-hair expert just because it grows out of my head like that.”
So true. “I’m just living life. And if that inspires you, I’m proud, but I’m not going to put pressure on myself to be the best person in the world and tell everyone I have vitiligo. If you want to know about it, you can do your research. Either way, I’m not in the dictionary under ‘vitiligo.’”
Are you comfortable being seen as a role model? “I feel like I am an inspiration. That’s the word I prefer. I don’t believe that I have to be a role model, someone to be emulated. My mom inspires me, and I take great things from her, but there are things from my mom that I would never do. So I don’t have my mother as a role model, but I do have her as a huge inspiration.”
About her mantra:
“I have a couple, but one of my most liked Instagrams is actually a quote I came up with myself. It’s ‘Confidence doesn’t eliminate insecurities, and insecurities don’t mean you’re not confident.’”
Did something happen in your life to inspire that?
“This goes back to me not talking about my skin. The picture was me in a bra and underwear, and when I took the photo, I was in the middle of doing my makeup. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, if she’s talking about confidence, she must be talking about her skin,’ but I was actually just saying that we all wear makeup and have insecurities. My contour is an unblended stripe on my face, and no one even saw that!”
The road to normality via the thing that made you different and partially successful is never ever easy Winnie, it is almost inescapable. My suggestion? Don’t fight it, roll with it!