article: why beauty isn't about being perfect
By Gabrielle Korn, Refinery29
Unconventional beauty is far more compelling than cookie-cutter features.
If you've ever looked in the mirror and felt that something about your appearance was less than "perfect," you'll find their stories as moving as we did. Yes, they're all beautiful, but above all else, it's their attitudes that we find most attractive. Read on for their interviews and portraits.
Diandra Forrest is a full-time fashion model, signed to agencies in Paris and Berlin. She's also albino. While some people view albinismas a genetic defect, Forrest's albinism - and confidence - gets her noticed in an industry where sameness runs rampant.
How do you define beauty?
"Beauty is the ability to have strength, character, confidence, and a strong presence while still being humble. I truly believe that beauty comes from within. There are many pretty faces, but beauty is a total package."
What do you find beautiful about yourself?
"I'd like to think that I am the total package of beauty, from my spirits to my exterior. I love bringing good energy and positivity to whoever I am around, and in all situations."
How did you become a model?
"I was scouted by the photographer Shameer Khan, who worked with me on some photo shoots, and then placed me with one of the top agencies. Being a model with albinism is great because there are very few other models who I can be compared to. Fashion loves striking beauties."
What's it like to have albinism?
"Well, that's all I've ever known. I love who I am! At times, I've gotten teased or looked at strangely because of it, but I've always felt like that's ridiculous. I shouldn't have to change who I am to be socially acceptable. Yes, you can make alterations to your exterior, but if you aren't fully secure in who you are as a person, none of that matters. People should embrace their flaws, because everyone has them. Some are just more visible than others, and by speaking out about your flaw you can boost someone else's confidence and inspire them to do the same."
Imagine if patches of your skin suddenly lost pigmentation. The spots feel like the rest of your skin, but they're devoid of color. That's what happened to Telisha Gibson, who developed vitiligo as a child. She's now the founder of the Telisha D. Gibson Project, Inc., a nonprofit currently working on a campaign called Perfectly Flawed. The project works to build a network of people with vitiligo and other similar conditions, to increase visibility and promote self-esteem.
How do you define beauty?
"Beauty is differences - the differences in size, shape, color."
What has your experience with vitiligo been like?
"I developed my first spot at the age of nine. At first, it was extremely hard to deal with, especially in my teens. But, today, I would scream from the highest mountain that I am an African American woman with vitiligo - and proud."
Have you ever been teased or criticized for it?
"One day, I was coming home from school on the train, not wearing sleeves. An elderly woman approached me and told me to stop bleaching my skin. The stares from other people cut even deeper. I had to hold back tears. It felt like the longest train ride ever. But, the crazy thing is, at my stop, this middle-aged woman approached me. She said, 'Baby, you are beautiful. Don't allow someone's opinion to be fact.'"