Ever since Winnie Harlow (born Chantelle Brown-Young) hit the fashion scene, she's been making waves in the industry.
The 21-year-old Canadian model with vitiligo (a skin condition that causes patches to lose pigment) gained a widespread following during her run on cycle 21 of "America's Next Top Model", and has since posed for the likes of Diesel and Desigual. Though once bullied because of her skin condition, she never allowed it to interfere with her dream of becoming a model, which, in turn, has brought on even more fans and admirers.
To demonstrate their admiration for the model, a number of Harlow's fans, many of them Caucasian, have used makeup to replicate her vitiligo on their own faces. However, this demonstration did not sit well with a large number of her other followers, who interpreted it as an act of appropriation not appreciation, and accused these fans of putting on blackface makeup.
Harlow, however, took to Instagram to defend her fans, claiming that their recreation of her skin condition is not blackface, but a tribute to her unique beauty. She posted the following message:
My response to this is probably not what a lot of people want but here it goes: every time someone wants fuller lips, or a bigger bum, or curly hair, or braids does Not mean our culture is being stolen. Have you ever stop to realize these things used to be ridiculed and now they're loved and lusted over. No one wants to "steal" our look here. We've just stood so confidently in our own nappy hair and du-rags and big asses (or in this case, my skin) that now those who don't have it love and lust after it. Just because a black girl wears blue contacts and long weave doesn't mean she wants to be white and just because a white girl wears braids and gets lip injection doesn't mean she wants to be black. The amount of mixed races in this world is living proof that we don't want to be each other we've just gained a national love for each other. Why can't we embrace that feeling of love? Why do we have to make it a hate crime? In a time when so much negative is happening, please don't accuse those who are showing love and appreciation, of being hateful. It is very clear to me when someone is showing love and I appreciate these people recreating, loving and broadcasting something to the world that once upon a time I cried myself to sleep over #1LOVE 💋
Some applauded her stance on the matter, however, an overwhelming majority were outraged that she would defend individuals "mimicking a disease and a culture," and called her ignorant:
I'm really disappointed in Winnie Harlowâ�� morena (@wow_chey) August 24, 2015
So Harlow took to Instagram again to defend her position and the individuals who painted their faces to look like hers:
I agree & am knowledgeable to these things. & by all means I get it. But It's one thing to recreate my skin & wear a crown in a photo, & it's another to recreate my face & then wear a noose (which is not the case). There is a difference in love vs hate & it's easy to see. There's this fine line between stealing & showing appreciation or seeing that something's are being accepted by the world. There are things that have been taken without recognition (from Art, to culture, to language and beyond and from many races including our own), this is not one of them. One big comment I saw on my post was "u can't play both sides" but it's that same mentality that keeps us stagnant, sitting in the same mind frame as our predecessors who dealt with things that are & can come to an end if we could Really see each other as equals, & not just claim we do. I proudly stand on the Gray Line that blurs black from white. I am happily a mix of many races and creeds! I am of African, Indian European and Asian decent and identify as a Proud Black Canadian Woman, and I Never forget the Canadian because that is the Gray. Being Canadian or American should remind you of this beautiful melting pot we are, and that the world is turning into. People are so prideful that they die & protest to be accepted, & when they are, they still find fault😐. When a white girl wears braids why can't we say "woooy big up di gyal deh ah show di world and agree seh Our culture is something beautiful to wear and to be celebrated" rather than getting offended and upset. And when a black fan paints their face to look like mine then what...will u turn it into "appropriation of vitiligo" or will u be able to except something's as public examples of LOVE? -_- #1LOVE
She also noted that individuals of different backgrounds were recreating her vitiligo:
And after facing further backlash for her post, she posted a final defense on Instagram:
😴😴 never been called such derogatory slurs so repetitively.. By the the same people trying to nail me, but sound pretty backward with words of "coon" "white washed bitch" "brain washed nigga"... Actually sound stupid as hell with "she's not even really black" 😐 what is it called when your mother and father are Black..? Sigh. The point here is Not to make it seem that Blackface is okay, or act like our people haven't gone through hell and back to then have things from our culture be stolen. #BlackLivesMatter This is Very true. But This situation has nothing to do with blacks or whites. All races have recreated the pattern of my skin and when they did it, it was complimented and glorified. This is Not appropriation, go look up the definition real quick! And it barely has anything to do with Vitiligo to be honest. People bash my fans who get my face tattooed on their bodies. It's not actually about me or anyone else. It's about a feeling I've created, and what I represent to whoever draws me, tattoos me or recreates my look (regardless of race!). It's about the hope the pattern of my skin represents to THEM, it's You who places a negative on it. It's the representation of not being afraid to be proud of who you are not just a "disease" as you so disablingly call it. I know my history. If you know ANY black Canadian you would know we all know our roots and are proud of where we're originally from. But we also don't live in the past. We are in the present creating a new future and even if it's a slow progression we're having, why can't we continue? Our ancestors didn't go through bullshit their whole lives for us to sit here and stay bitter or hoard our culture. The fight was never to Keep us segregated. It was to allow us to come together. So while a Lot of things in this world are wrong (and No I don't support "Blackface"), a lot of things, including many intentions, are pure. Use common sense (and the definition...) to know the difference of appreciation and appropriation. Alright mi done talk!! Unno cyan gwan now and flip my words however u please 😎👑✌🏾️ #1Love
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