Summer 2015 Power 50: Chantelle Winnie
The Power 50 is a collection of Canada’s top people, places and things of 2016. Our list is filled with game changers from all corners of the nation that are inspiring, innovating and influencing the way we live and work from the top. Giving you the best from every city, industry, office and home, The Bull’s Canadian Power 50 is not your typical list and instead is the definitive guide to who and what is changing the way Canada lives, works and plays.
In anticipation of our Summer 2016 Power 50 issue, every week we will feature the highlights of The Bull's inaugural Power 50 issue. To receive your own copy of our Summer 2016 issue, you can subscribe to the Bay St. Bull here.
The beauty industry is a $55 billion business built on the insecurities of consumers. It’s a strategy that clearly works very well. One walk down the beauty aisle of a store and you’ll witness first-hand the many ways that companies exploit people's insecurities for profit. Not only is your skin too dark or too light, but it's also oily and acne-prone; the list goes on. Many of us feel an urgent need to keep up appearances, or risk being humiliated. For as long as the beauty industry has existed, men and women have had to comply with what society has said they should look like.
But there are some who are challenging these traditional norms of what is considered beautiful. Chantelle Winnie is one of them. Before this model and activist was featured on the inside of any magazine or plastered on billboards around the world, she was a young girl growing up in Toronto, dealing with the challenges that kids often face. While bullying is a far too common occurrence among youth, Chantelle’s circumstances were unique. At the age of four, she was diagnosed with a rare skin condition called vitiligo. Made famous by Michael Jackson, it affects approximately one percent of the population and is characterized by the loss of pigmentation in a person's skin.
“While growing up, I was teased, ridiculed and bullied and called names like cow, zebra and all manner of disparaging slurs,” Chantelle said in the past.
What many would consider a weakness, and perhaps even a point of shame, vitiligo is something that Chantelle has turned into one of her greatest strengths, using it to empower herself and others affected by the condition. Her efforts come at a crucial time when experts around the world are trying to figure out how to tackle bullying, especially in the school system. And while she takes little credit, the visibility she has given to vitiligo has helped others understand and celebrate the very differences that set them apart.
Exercising control over her condition and demanding respect hasn’t meant that obstacles haven’t been present along the way, though. While Chantelle has made a career of being in front of the camera, it's been a long and difficult road to get to where she is today. Being an activist and persuading others to see beauty in a new light has forced her to be at the centre of it all. Making yourself vulnerable like that takes courage. But it's that gumption that has served her so well throughout her life and career. While many of Toronto’s top modeling agencies turned her down for representation, it was Tyra Banks’ hand-selection of Chantelle to compete on her reality show, America’s Next Top Model, that gave her the exposure she needed. Since then, opportunities haven’t stopped knocking on her door. She's starred in campaigns for Diesel and Desigual, been featured in leading industry publications and served as muse to famed photographer, Nick Knight. But more importantly, she has given a face and platform to vitiligo so that kids and adults who suffer from the condition can walk a little taller.