You may recognize Winnie Harlow from season 12 of America’s Next Top Model… in fact, she’s hard to miss. She first came into public view as a contestant on the show with a skin condition called vitiligo, which causes loss of pigmentation in the skin. Since then, she has become a model who focuses on encouraging everyone to find beauty within themselves even when they do not fit societal norms of “beauty”.
During a TED Talk, Harlow discussed the impact that growing up with such a visible condition had on her life — from being bullied to becoming the bully, she says during the talk that the only reason she ever felt like she wasn’t beautiful is because someone else told her she wasn’t.
Harlow’s sentiment is a powerful one. Who is telling young girls and boys that they aren’t beautiful, after all? We are — in advertisements, on television, on social media, everywhere — they are bombarded with messages of what is beautiful and more importantly what is not.
A study conducted in 1996 the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies, and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin. While that information may seem outdated, that is the exactly the point I want to make. In 1996, exposure to media caused body dissatisfaction in adolescents— Imagine how much more frequently adolescents are exposed to these images in 2016. According to CBSNews.com, we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”
So though the message to find beauty in everything may seem cliché, it is exactly what the world needs. That, and more models, actors, and media portrayals of people like Winnie Harlow — individually beautiful.