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In our society there is a big emphasis on the physical appearance of an individual. It usually correlates with how attractive people may view that person and, in my eyes, there is an emphasis on the sexualisation of a person to please the general public. What society views as beautiful is usually accompanied with the sexualisation of that individual. The standard of beauty has changed over the decades but right now fit bodies and tanned skin are celebrated in the western world by the majority of people while in the east, fair skin and softer rounded bodies are celebrated. Slowly curvy bodies have become popularized by very famous celebrities and in our world, we are heavily influenced by the media. Things like acne scars, skin conditions, disabilities etc. are viewed as imperfections in the world of perceived perfection. This shallow view of what beauty has caused serious mental health problems for many individuals in the society, especially with the teenage demographic. They do not know themselves yet or even understand what is happening to them when they go through their adolescence and when they see celebrities they look up to representing such extreme beauty standards. It is hard for them to cope because not everyone can look like the perfect representation of beauty when beauty is so subjective. They focus less on their personalities and characteristics and more on vanity.
When you do something for someone else it benefits them but when you do something for yourself it empowers you. That is why it’s so important to teach the younger generation that beauty is not perfection, it’s an attitude, it’s an aura. Be kind, gentle, loving and appreciative of your own unique makeup. I’m writing this to empower the people who think they have to be perfect in order to be beautiful. Imperfections are what make you beautiful. Uniqueness and diversity are what make you beautiful. The box that you think you have to fit in is oversaturated with the same faces and that gets boring after a while. Do that work to make yourself feel beautiful. You don’t have to be a size 0 or have long hair or even the prettiest face because if there is no substance and personality behind the outer beauty then there’s just a hollow shell left and a pretty face slapped on it sent out into the world to please everyone but yourself. It’s an empty feeling and a lonely place to be when all you are to people is beautiful. Be beautiful but also be who you are and embrace your own beauty. I want you to love yourself as I have learned to love myself.
When I was little, I always thought I was special…mainly because that’s what my mother would tell me. But for other reasons I could see clearly with my own eyes. I only learned I had my skin condition called albinism when I moved to Canada. For those who don’t know, albinism is a skin condition that results in a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, hair and skin. Living in Jamaica, being a girl with albinism had been difficult in many ways but I had a family that loved me and made me feel unique. I have many stories about my experiences, some good and some bad, but I will tell a small part that shows the importance of understanding and education.
School happened to be the most difficult part of my life. I started preschool at the age of 4 and noticed how kids would stare at me. Many would come closer and closer and eventually they would start pinching me and pulling my hair to see if I was real or a doll. The more I progressed in school, the more things got worse. Being visually impaired is something that often comes with albinism and it was hard for me to learn when I couldn’t see anything. Back then, the technology wasn’t as developed as it is today so It would result in me kneeling on the hard ground in front of the chalk board trying to take notes. I became very auditory, relying on the sounds around me to locate things and using my memory, colors and shapes to recall what certain things were. Therefore my grades weren’t the highest but I did try my best.
In school, I was made to feel ostracized and shunned because of the way I looked. One day I was in the courtyard at school. I was running around doing an activity the teachers arranged for us. I remember falling on the ground and looking at my knees, one of them was scratched and the other was cut fairly badly. The teacher ran over to me to check on me. She looked at my knees and called the other children over and said “See, she cries as we do, she hurts as we do, she bleeds as we do”. That wasn’t her mocking me but she was trying to teach the same children who didn’t understand me that I was as they were. Those children ended up being the nicest to me from that point forward.
I remember I would watch Disney channel a lot and it was a way for me to relax and take my mind off of school. I remember seeing people who looked somewhat like me (lighter skin tone and hair color) and I wanted to be them – thus, creating a love of acting and everything creative, theatrical and/or musical. I knew I was black, but I also knew I didn’t look black. One evening, my mother walked over to me while watching tv and said, “do you want to go to Canada?”. I replied “yes”. “Why?” My mother asked. I replied “because I want to be accepted”. Now I look back on it and it’s a very sad response for a then 7 year old to give. Nonetheless a few months later we did move to Canada and it was the happiest I think I’d ever been. As soon as I moved my grades got better, I became more of an extrovert and I had many more friends. They didn’t understand what made me look the way I did but accepted me regardless. I also knew that was a result of the cultural difference between Jamaica and Canada. Jamaica, though it does have many different kinds of people, is a predominantly black Country. Whereas Canada is a country that accepts many kinds of immigrants and is multicultural. Coming to Canada helped me to become the person I was always meant to be. One thing I want to make clear is that I do not dislike my Country, I am proud to be black and I admire it because of its beauty and strong culture. Also, there were people who would look at me and think I was beautiful. Though, I do believe that there is a lack of education.
I understand that there is still a stigma attached to people with albinism and I will always want to educate people on my skin condition when they ask. I believe that not enough people know about it. People are afraid of things they don’t understand and that’s why they need to thoroughly educate themselves about something first before they make assumptions.
I was never the type of person that would thrive off being called beautiful because it was an internal decision. I knew I was beautiful, I knew I was special but the world did not understand. I do understand that the lack of acceptance I felt was not my fault but it was the world that didn’t understand who I was. I am beautiful. I never once thought that I wasn’t. I believe that because I do internalize things so much that it has helped me with accepting who I am and not feeling like I was the problem. I believe that beauty and acceptance has to come from the inside and not the outside world. You have to determine your beauty because if you rely on others to tell you that you are beautiful what happens when you run into a person that deems you as ugly or disgusting? It’s going to hurt you. If you do the mental work on the inside to know that you are worthy, deserving and beautiful, those comments won’t ever phase you.
Before people who had darker skin were told that they were ugly, unwanted and disgusting. They were cast aside because of what the world told them and slowly the world started to fetishize them and after that in the modeling industry there were token black models. White models would get vast representation while, Black models, Asian, Hispanic etc. were not given as wide of a representation in the media – therefore shoving models of color into a corner.
I would like to see representation of people like me with albinism in the media that does not only focus on our medical condition but also what we have to offer to society. This goes for all skin conditions like vitiligo as well as physical disabilities. Our conditions do cause difficulties in our lives but it’s not who we are. I may be an albino model but that’s not just who I am. I am a model that happens to be albino with many other amazing qualities.
The world of fashion has slowly been changing in the most positive and inclusive way and we do see people with albinism on the runway but we shouldn’t just be recognized on the runway. People with albinism should be recognized on TV, in education, in businesses and everywhere else. We should be recognized in everyday life because we are everyday people who work everyday jobs just as everyone does. That is what I want to make clear. Being a model, I have the ability to represent something beautiful and different. Little girls and boys with albinism will see more representation and be more confident in themselves. They will show more personality and won’t feel like they have to hide because they feel weird or unusual. They will embrace the natural beauty that they possess. I want more people to know more and educate themselves on this skin condition. I do have albinism and I am a model but that’s not all there is to me. I’m a regular person with dreams and aspirations just like everybody else. Though it may take time, at least there is a slow progression in the recognition of albinism and I want to be a part of that because it’s who I am and I am proud of who I am.
Chrisauntae appears courtesy of model agencies Want Model Management (@wantmanagement) and Caliber Models (@calibermodels)