Chantelle Brown-Young aka Winnie Harlow is most famous for participating in the twenty-first cycle of America’s Next Top Model, who was placed sixth out of the fourteen contestants. Her chronic skin condition vitiligo has influenced her to become the spokes-model for diversity and challenging traditional beauty standards in modelling. In an effort to celebrate her vitiligo, her fans have imitated her vitiligo pattern with make-up – obviously causing an awkward stir and offending many who are taking it as an act of blackface. Two days ago, she spoke out in defence of her fans imitating her skin condition, which heavily put her on one side of the cultural appropriation debate. The post is as follows:
“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 realise 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”
Obviously, she has received a range of responses from the internet. Today she has responded with another post today to defend her fans’ imitation as appreciation and not appropriation.
“never been called such derogatory slurs so repetitively… By 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