The modelling industry is known for it’s cut-throat nature and its obsession with beauty. The television competition “America’s Next Top Model”, devised by former supermodel Tyra Banks, seems to epitomise these characteristics, with young men and women going directly against each other in search of the best (looking) photograph each week. The hopeful with the worst photo is sent home at the end of the week, deemed not good enough to continue in the competition.
However, going against its reputation, it seems that the series could be redefining beauty, with the emergence, and acceptance, of young models who differ from the usual, including Chantelle Brown-Young and Shaun Ross.
Brown-Young, who hails from Toronto Canada, states openly “a lot of people have a story in life, but mine is painted on my body”. The young model has all the requisites for a successful modelling career - long limbs, statuesque figure and striking beauty - but her skin is also covered in white patches. She suffers from the skin disease vitiligo, which causes her body to attack her skin-pigment cells. But this doesn’t seem to phase her; she seems intent on redefining beauty.
Following her appearance on America’s Next Top Model, she modelled in London’s Fashion Week, and has garnered a huge following on her Instagram account. Her looks, however, haven’t always brought her fortune. Bullied as a child, she felt left out, saying “there’s no Barbie with vitiligo”.
Brown-Young was perfectly suited to Tyra Banks’ model hunt, as she searched for “originality”. The distinctive looks of other participants allowed for their success in the industry, including albino male model Shaun Ross. Known as “Powder” and “Casper” in his youth, his appearance on the Tyra Banks chat show garnered him much attention, and since then he has appeared on catwalks, short films and music videos for the likes of Katy Perry. He recently became the face of Ford Vehicles, under the slogan “Be Unique”.
Rick Genest, also known as Zombie Boy, is a Montréal model covered head to toe in tattoos. Deciding to live on the streets as a teenager and using hitchhiking as his main form of transportation, Genest became infamous after appearing on a ModBlog. His fame garnered him a huge Facebook following, before he was booked for catwalk shows and an appearance in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video. He has gone on to become L’Oreal’s first male spokesperson.
Another L’Oreal model, Aimee Mullins, was born with a medical condition causing her to have both her legs amputated. She modelled for Alexander McQueen in London with a pair of solid ash prosthetic limbs, and is considered the muse of many notable photographers.
Being unique, it seems, is a running theme in a modelling world seeking to deviate from stereotypical beauty. Looking at the board of major modelling agencies, diversity is “specifically represented”, according to Ben Barry of Ryerson University. Although Chantelle Brown-Young is still waiting for a modelling contract, Barry is certain she won’t be waiting long.