No one should ever be defined by the color of their skin, and that includes Winnie Harlow. The model, who’s perhaps best known for her rise on America’s Next Top Model and, later, a starring role in Beyoncé’s stunning visual album Lemonade, is speaking out against those who have offensively labeled her a “vitiligo sufferer.”
Harlow specifically took aim at London’s Evening Standard Magazine, which referred to her as such in a recent feature. “@eveningstandardmagazine @evening.standard and all other tabloids, magazines and people who write articles on me PSA: I’m not a ‘Vitiligo Sufferer’,” she explained on Instagram. “I’m not a ‘Vitiligo model’. I am Winnie. I am a model. And I happen to have Vitiligo. Stop putting these titles on me or anyone else.”
She also broke down why labeling her as a “sufferer” is incorrect. “I AM NOT SUFFERING!,” she wrote. “If anything I’m SUCCEEDING at showing people that their differences don’t make them WHO they are! All our differences are apart of who we are but they don’t define us! I’m sick of every headline ending in ‘vitiligo sufferer’ or ‘suffers from vitiligo.’ Do you see me suffering? The only thing I’m suffering from are your headlines and the closed minds of humans who have one beauty standard locked into their minds when there are multiple standards of beauty! The beach was damn fine that day, nothing to suffer about!”
Harlow’s right and, just as you wouldn’t refer to someone with vitiligo as a “sufferer,” the word is also obsolete when referring to peoples’ experiences with chronic health problems, mental health, and abuse. These days, “survivor” is the norm.
To render the word “sufferer” all the more inappropriate, the model is clearly excelling in her career and life. Harlow’s personal journey is so inspiring, it was earned her a spot giving a TED talk in 2014 and was the subject of a video she shared on YouTube in 2011, called “Vitiligo: A Skin Condition not a Life Changer.”
Her eloquence is also part of the reason she’s amassed an Instagram following of three million, where she shares her body positivity. “The real difference isn’t my skin. It’s the fact that I don’t find my beauty in the opinions of others,” she wrote in August. “I’m beautiful because I know it. Celebrate Your unique beauty today (& everyday)!”