20-year-old gal makes a splash as 'America's Next Top Model' contestant with skin condition
Chantelle Brown-Young was bullied as a child... a lot.
Due to her skin condition, vitiligo, which caused mysterious white patches to appear all over her body, she was called names.
“I was called a cow; I was moo-ed at; I was called Zebra,” she told FOX411.
Brown-Young, who goes by the nicknames Chantelle Winnie or Winnie Harlow online, first saw a white patch on her skin when she was 4 years old. There is no known cause for vitiligo, and she remembers a childhood plagued by bullies who made her not want to come to school.
But the 20-year-old from Toronto managed to overcome her tormenters, and turn her unique look into a booming modeling career that’s landed her a coveted spot as a contestant on “America’s Next Top Model’s” 21st season.
She discovered she liked modeling at the age of 16 when a photographer requested she pose for a few pictures.
“She had found me on Facebook and she fell in love with my skin and my energy in pictures so she decided she wanted to do a photo shoot with me,” she recalled. After that, her passion for modeling took off.
Chantelle’s modeling pics have earned her nearly 200,000 Instagram followers, and she was hard at work on her GED – after she dropped out of high school because other students were picking on her—when she got a phone call from “America’s Next Top Model,” the reality show helmed by Tyra Banks.
“Of all the people in the industry, she is someone that I really wanted to take notice of me,” Brown-Young said of Banks.
The experience has been a whirlwind for the young model, who is gaining even more attention online ahead of the show’s premiere.
Many of the users who contact her on social media write to tell her they’ve been inspired by her bold decision to model despite her vitiligo.
“There is a lot of positive feedback on the pictures that I post. For example, there was a girl the other day who told me that she lives in Atlanta, and she has never worn shorts, and because of me she is wearing her shorts with her vitiligo… because of me.”
Along with the fans, there are always critics, said Chantelle, who admits she’s more sensitive than people may expect.
“I am very strong based off of what I had to go through in life [but]… I do read my comments,” she said. “There will always be those negative comments and although they don’t get me down it’s never good to see it.”
Brown-Young said she hopes her photos have gained her so many followers because when people see them “it hits them not so much in the eyes but in the heart because it’s inspiring to see someone going after what they want.”
You can watch Chantelle on "America’s Next Top Model," premiering Aug. 18 on The CW.