Advertisements can be seen throughout New York City featuring model Chantelle Brown-Young, who lives with a rare skin condition called vitiligo, who has recently become the face of the Desigual brand. To many, this campaign and the model come across as unexpected, since often models look relatively similar. They are tall and slender. Some may have slightly stronger features than others but overall their looks tend to fall on the side of uniform. There has been more diversity in modeling such as the inclusion of more plus-sized models in select runway shows and clothing campaigns; however models like Brown-Young greatly differ from the norm. But recently, more models previously seen as unconventional are gaining exposure in the fashion world.
In February of 2014, New York Fashion Week featured the first model in a wheelchair to grace the runway. According to ABC News, 35 year old Dr. Danielle Sheypuk has been in a wheelchair since she was five. She was asked by designer Carrie Hammer to participate in her show as a role model, as opposed to casting a traditional model. Sheypuk hopes to open doors for other models with disabilities by continuing to model in other projects.
Before she was the face of Desigual, Chantelle Brown-Young was a contestant on the show America’s Next Top Model, and from the beginning, she displayed confidence that surpassed all of her competitors. Though she did not win the competition, the exposure that she received was beneficial and motivational to others with unique looks or disabilities who are striving for visibiliy in the fashion world. Her ability to share her story, display her success and turn her disability into an asset proves that it is not impossible for unconventional models to succeed and that people who look different can still make great models.
Similarly, Nordstrom featured a model in a wheelchair in their catalog as well as a man with a prosthetic leg wearing running shoes. According to Fox News, Nordstrom believes that since they cater to a diverse group of people, their models should reflect that diversity.
This push for more unconventional models has prompted other prominent companies to use models with disabilities in their advertisements. Swiffer featured an actor who had an amputated arm, Duracell featured a deaf football player, and H&M and Diesel both used models with disabilities. This increased participation of models with disabilities in the fashion and media world is vital because the more normal our individual differences become, the more opportunities open up for everyone.
While unconventional models are opening doors for other unconventional models they are also necessary to send a message to the public. Conventional models put an emphasis on needing to look a certain way to be beautiful and create a negative atmosphere. However, when models like Brown-Young and Sheypuk are added into the mix, they are proof that beauty comes in many forms.
Avani Hedge is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.