Vitiligo model inspires fashion world

Vitiligo model inspires fashion world
Model Chantelle Winnie, 20, has vitiligo, the same skin disorder Michael Jackson had.

NEW YORK - Chantelle Winnie is taking the fashion world by storm.

The 20-year-old Canadian model is the It girl of diversity in a world pilloried for brutal uniformity.

Diagnosed with vitiligo, the same skin disorder Michael Jackson had, at four, she overcame bullying and years of rejection to achieve her dream of becoming an international model.

Plucked from obscurity to appear on America's Next Top Model and chosen last year as the face of Spanish label Desigual, she loves every second of her whirlwind, "amazing" life.

Bubbly and prone to loud guffaws, she says of becoming a spokesman for vitiligo: "I could more label myself as even a spokeswoman for happiness."

But hers had not been an easy journey to the catwalk for Desigual on Thursday, the first day of New York Fashion Week.

Brought up by a single mother, a hairdresser, Winnie was badly bullied at school and in her teens rejected by every modelling agency in Toronto.

She built a profile on social media where she was discovered by former model Tyra Banks, presenter of long-running reality show America's Next Top Model.

Winnie was booted off the show last year, but has remained close to Banks.

"You were already a star. I just gave you a platform to make sure people recognised that you were. Keep making me proud," Winnie says, fishing out her cellphone to read a message from Banks.

"That really touched me," she adds.

A model with Down's Syndrome also featured in New York on Thursday.

American Horror Story actress Jamie Brewer, 30, became the first model with Down's Syndrome to walk during New York Fashion Week, said People magazine.

She modelled as part of designer Carrie Hammer's Role Models Not Runway Models campaign.

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