Chantelle Brown-Young is a model taking the fashion industry by storm. A 20 year old with international creds, Chantelle is a strong woman with a successful future ahead of her.
Although commonly recognized as the “top model with Vitiligo”, Chantelle is so much more than that.
You might Google her name and find gorgeous, bubbly pictures of Chantelle modeling with accessories, laughing and smiling with flowers in her hair. The perception of a vivacious girl with a child-like innocence is apparent, but far from real.
This Toronto-native is much edgier than her search results, and she wants people to know that things are not always exactly as you see on the screens.
We meet in the lobby of the W Hotel in Union Square. Winnie (as her friends call her) is at the end of her trip to New York, and heading back to Toronto the day after our meeting. A natural beauty with hardly much make-up on, she gives off a cool and casual vibe. We sit on the plush couches and chat briefly about her time in New York before diving into the interview, and unveiling the real Chantelle Winnie.
So what’s the story behind all of your names? Chantelle, Winnie, Harlow…
So my name is Chantelle Brown Young, but in high school I made up this nick name “Harlow”. I don’t remember exactly where Winnie came from, but Harlow was a tribute to Jeanne Harlow, Marilyn Monroe’s icon. So that’s how Winnie Harlow name came about. But when I started working and modeling I wanted my real name to be out there too, so I combined Chantelle and Winnie for Chantelle Winnie.
I just read recently in a UK magazine that when you we’re younger you may have tried to cover up your spots…. Tell me more about that. Is that true?
Well when I was younger, for family portraits my mom would use her makeup to blend in my skin… which would end up in orange patches! So I would have orange patches rather than white patches on my skin. She thought it would make me feel more comfortable, until one day I said “Mom, can we not do this, I hate this process, I hate taking pictures like this.” And she was like “oh my gosh I’m so sorry I didn’t know” and then she just stopped from there.
And so you never tried to cover them up either?
No, not really, I don’t really like makeup. Well I shouldn’t say I don’t like makeup, I love makeup when it’s time to get ready. But, on a regular day-to-day basis I prefer not to wear much.
Totally, all natural beauty there… how does it feel to be the first big model with Vitiligo? Or does it just feel normal to you?
Well I’m not just my skin, so it doesn’t feel like I’m the first Vitiligo model. I’m just… a model.
What so far has been the most significant moment in your career?
Everything. I feel like everything is its own pinnacle and without each step I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I’m grateful for everything that has come my way.
So what’s next for you? What do you have coming up?
Well I have a big campaign coming out next month, but I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is!
No sneak peeks?!
[laughs] Noooo, but my birthday is also coming up… so a few things are dropping this month. It’ll be nice to finally be 21, to come to New York and actually be here.
Well your presence is definitely felt. What do you think about the media and certain publications saying that you are changing the face of fashion?
I believe it’s true. It’s opening the doors to… not even to a new type of beauty, but a new view of beauty.
As you’re getting older, how do you think your perception of yourself might be a little different from the perception that the world has of you?
I think right now there is a view of me being very “happy-go-lucky” and all “rainbows & flowers”. Especially some of the campaigns I’ve done that are very colorful, very vivacious… it leads people to think I’m like that. But that’s not really me. As you can see, this is more me [as Winnie points to her Blondie t-shirt and jeans].
I guess the industry doesn’t know you that well?
Yea. I just shot a campaign yesterday and the creative directors had a view of how they would dress me… and it was all types of florals and colors. This was based off of just Googling me. They wanted me to go through this closet and pick out what I liked… and it was maybe 5 things.
Certainly a disconnect! How do you think the differences in perceptions affects those that look up to you?
Well I love the fans and the [young girls] and the people that look up to me… but if you’re going to look up to me, look up to me for who I am – not who you think I am.
Winnie’s upcoming campaigns hope to soften this gap, and shed more light on who the real Winnie is. Exciting things are in store for this innovative model… from changing the view on beauty, to being a role model for people with Vitiligo, to capturing the essence of Winnie. Chantelle isn’t going anywhere, and we’re excited to see her break out.