With 1.6 million followers on Instagram, Winnie Harlo has famous photographers from all over the world wanting to work with her, and also models for famous brands like Desigual. Who would’ve thought that someone as popular and successful as her had been bullied when she was younger? However, she did not give up and persevered, and got to where she is right now.
Her skin condition, vitiligo, only developed when she was 4. Vitiligo happens when patches of the skin lose their pigment, and it is more noticeable in people with dark skin. There is no known cure for vitiligo, so there was nothing she could do about patches of her skin losing their colour. When she was 4, her skin started to change drastically. She had never even paid any attention to her skin condition till when she went third grade, and all of her friends started to avoid her, because their mothers told them to stay away from her so that they would not catch her skin condition. Her mother had to explain to her class about her skin condition, and that it was not contagious. Even so, students would continue to avoid her just because of how she looked. Her classmates would moo at her and call her a cow.
When she was in middle school, the bullying wasn’t just verbal anymore — physical bullying got involved. She would try to get through each day, without telling her mother about the bullies, wishing her skin condition would go away. In high school, the bullying got worse, and had to change schools. Her new school turned out to be a blessing, as she did not need to worry about socialising anymore, causing her grades to improve. She also got a job at a calling center, and soon she dropped out of school because she did not have time for both of them.
Soon after, a journalist in Toronto named Shannon Boodram saw her Facebook page and told her that she was “strikingly beautiful”. Shannon then shot a video of her which grabbed thousands of views on YouTube. Shannon told her that the camera loved her, and she should be a model. After all that happened in school, Winnie has obviously never even thought about becoming a model. She decided to give it a try after that small encouragement, and contacted an agent. As she expected, the agent rejected her. She wasn’t surprised at all, as this was the kind of attitude she had been dealing with her whole life, being told that, directly or indirectly, she was not good enough. This did not weaken her resolve, and she did not give up, posting pictures on her Instagram and sending them to modelling agents whose answers were all the same, “no”.
Her efforts paid off, and a casting director from America’s Next Top Model contacted her through a fanpage on Facebook that her little sister created for her. After going on the show, lots of photographers wanted to work with her, and one of them stood out among the rest, as he had shot many celebrities like Lady Gaga. He invited her to star in a shoot for his fashion website. She gained popularity slowly, and many brands started offering her jobs to model for their products. Her motto is: Live it for yourself, not for anyone else. She has gone back to her middle school, and talked to students about having confidence in themselves.
She is only successful because she did not give up after people told her she was not good enough, and instead believed in herself and persevered. This is what most people should be doing, and not give up after just one or two negative comments from the people around them.
Jing Rung (3F)