She's been called "zebra" or "cow", but she could be America's Next Top Model

11 May 2014 / 2 years 5 months ago

The New Paper
Friday, May 09, 2014

She has defied the conventional idea of what the world sees as beautiful. In school, Miss Chantelle Brown-Young was bullied.

Growing up, she was called "zebra" and "cow" because of a rare skin condition. When she was four, she was diagnosed with vitiligo -- a pigmentation disorder -- the same condition Michael Jackson had.

White patches of irregular shapes begin to appear on the skin over time.

With this problem, Toronto-based Brown-Young, now 19, could not even have dreamed of a career in modelling, Mail Online reported.

But she has had the last laugh when she was picked as one of 14 contestants for this summer's Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model. The reality TV series is in its 21st season, and will feature men and women.

On the America's Next Top Model website, Miss Brown-Young is seen posing in a photograph with Banks.

In her video pitch for the TV show, she said she wanted to be picked because it has been "a lifelong dream".

She added: "I am the underdog, and I want to prove that one can follow one's dreams despite all the flaws and setbacks."

Her parents and younger sister, Christina, 10, support her in her mission to redefine the way the fashion industry looks at beauty. Her mother, Ms Lisa Brown, who is originally from Jamaica, told Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner:

"Chantelle is a sweet, beautiful, outgoing teenager.

"I am just so thrilled at (her) turnaround, with her new level of confidence. I can't stop thanking God for this wonderful blessing."

Her social network accounts reveal that she has already graced the catwalk dozens of times.

She starred in a music video, and last month, she was photographed by Nick Knight, who has take shots of supermodels Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss.

Miss Brown-Young describes herself as a "vitiligo spokesmodel" on Instagram, where she has more than 100,000 followers. Recently, she was invited to her high school to do a motivational talk on the discrimination she faced.

She first spoke publicly about her skin condition in 2011 by posting a video on YouTube titled, Vitiligo: A Skin Condition Not A Life Changer.

Then she told viewers:

"People have black skin, people have brown skin, I have both.

"When I got older, it got harder because when kids get older they get meaner, so I went through a lot of bullying and people calling me names like 'zebra' or 'cow', so it was really hard growing up."

She said there was a time she wanted to commit suicide, but somehow found the strength to pull through.

Moving from California to Canada with her family also provided the opportunity for a fresh start.

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