Those who have been avid watchers and fans of America’s Next Top Model, created by supermodel and maven Tyra Banks, definitely remember the unforgettable Winnie Harlow. Her look alone made her stand out amongst any contestant that has appeared on the show, due to her bout with vitiligo, a skin condition that causes loss of pigment that usually appears as white patches.
The Canadian and Jamaican model has spoken on her condition, saying that it does not define her. Addressing all publications, “tabloids, magazines, and people” that pen stories on her, she took to Instagram to relay a message. “ I’m not a ‘Vitiligo Sufferer’,” Harlow proclaims. “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. I AM NOT SUFFERING!”
She added, “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… 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!”
Ever since appearing in and competing on the reality show at the age of 18, her star has continued to rise even though she was eliminated in the second week. She has become successful and also one of the more popular contestants to come from ANTM’s roster. However, the Vogue cover-girl has expressed that she does not feel that she owes her success to that part of her past.
“[My success] started after the show, ’cause that really didn’t do anything for my career. Which, it doesn’t do anything for any model’s career, realistically,” Harlow explained to Andy Cohen during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live. “A photographer from London hit me up — major photographer Nick Knight — and he was like, ‘Hey, I’ve seen your photos online, and I want to do a shoot with you.’ It went viral, and I got campaigns from there, and it hasn’t stopped since.”
Harlow went on to say that she believes the show is a better career jump-starter for those that desire to be reality stars and not models. “I thought the show was going to be a career starter,” she said. “It was really like a reality TV show, and that’s not what I signed up for.”
Her comments were deemed to be ungrateful in nature from fans, who felt that she should highlight that the show indeed provided a bigger platform for her. After being slammed by some fans who felt she was shading show creator Tyra Banks, the model didn’t back down. However, she stood by her words as she responded to a fan on Instagram.
“It has nothing to do with being ungrateful, and more over [sic] nothing to do with ‘shade’ to Tyra,” the 26-year old model wrote. “She was the first person of higher status to make me feel like I could be a model and not only am I grateful for that, it’s something I’ll never forget. After being on the show no one would book me and no agency would sign me because of the Reality Tv stigma. Once I realized that, I stopped talking about it and grew my work base in Europe.”
She added, “I understand people know me and have seen me on ANTM, but I never really talk about it because my goal is to always be honest but never to bash anyone’s empire. It’s just difficult to get around questions I usually would avoid, on a live show. My truth is, I stand by what I said and I say it because I don’t want girls thinking it’s a jump start to a modelling [sic] career because of me. I learned that the best thing to do to become a model and to be taken seriously is to take plain headshots and find a reputable modelling [sic] agency.”
Harlow, who is the girlfriend of NBA player Kyle Kuzma, ended by saying that she is grateful for every experience. Tyra Banks, who remained silent on the matter for a while, made her own appearance on the Bravo TV show where she finally addressed Harlow’s comments. “I discovered her on Instagram and she [was] on this show, so what do you think that means?” Banks said. “I have nothing but love for my girls. And my girls come from so many walks of life and so much pain and so much hardship and so much story. And a lot of times when people express themselves in certain ways, there’s a reason. And I will respect her confidentially and her life but I have to give love to her. They’re all my babies, they’re all my babies, even the ones that act out are still my babies.”
You can read Winnie Harlow’s full response below where she says that “honesty shouldn’t be misconstrued as shade.”