Model Winnie Harlow has started an online debate about blackface.
Harlow—who competed in Cycle 21 of America's Next Top Model under the name Chantelle Brown-Young—has a skin condition called vitiligo, which causes loss of color in blotches. After placing fifth in Tyra Banks' reality competition series, Harlow, 21, booked campaigns with Desigual and Diesel. She currently appears on Ebony's September cover with fellow America's Next Top Model aluma Fatima Siad, plus Samantha Archibald, Milan Dixon, Diandra Forrest and Marquita Pring.
As Harlow makes a name for herself in the fashion industry, some people have attempted to copy her skin condition in an effort to tribute to her. The fans, some of them Caucasian, have applied makeup to look more like Harlow. However, some critics have argued that what fans are really doing is putting on blackface.
Amid controversy, Harlow released a statement via Instagram. "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 realize 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," the model told her followers. "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," Harlow continued. "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."
Some people were unhappy with Harlow's response, however.
To further explain her point, Harlow retweeted several fans who understood her point of view and released a second response via Instagram. "I agree & am knowledgeable to these things. & by all means I get it. But It's one thing to recreate my skin & wear a crown in a photo, & it's another to recreate my face & then wear a noose (which is not the case). There is a difference in love vs hate & it's easy to see. There's this fine line between stealing & showing appreciation or seeing that something's are being accepted by the world. There are things that have been taken without recognition (from Art, to culture, to language and beyond and from many races including our own), this is not one of them."
"One big comment I saw on my post was 'u can't play both sides' but it's that same mentality that keeps us stagnant, sitting in the same mind frame as our predecessors who dealt with things that are & can come to an end if we could Really see each other as equals, & not just claim we do. I proudly stand on the Gray Line that blurs black from white. I am happily a mix of many races and creeds! I am of African, Indian European and Asian decent and identify as a Proud Black Canadian Woman, and I Never forget the Canadian because that is the Gray," she wrote. "Being Canadian or American should remind you of this beautiful melting pot we are, and that the world is turning into. People are so prideful that they die & protest to be accepted, & when they are, they still find fault. When a white girl wears braids why can't we say "woooy big up di gyal deh ah show di world and agree seh Our culture is something beautiful to wear and to be celebrated" rather than getting offended and upset. And when a black fan paints their face to look like mine then what...will u turn it into 'appropriation of vitiligo' or will u be able to except something's as public examples of LOVE? #1LOVE."