The Untold Truth Of Winnie Harlow
Winnie Harlow is one of the most recognizable people on the planet. The supermodel has made a name for herself on catwalks all around the world.
She is famous for how she embraced her unique beauty to make it in a fiercely competitive industry. Behind that gorgeous smile and confident pose is a story of a Canadian girl who has made it to the top despite numerous challenges. Her story endears her to the world. Keep reading to find out more about Winnie Harlow.
She was bullied as a child
Winnie Harlow was born on 27th July 1994 in Toronto to Windsor Young and Lisa Brown. She grew up alongside two sisters. Harlow’s mother raised the sisters by herself.
Harlow was diagnosed with a skin condition called Vitiligo when she was four. The skin condition causes depigmentation of parts of the skin. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was also diagnosed with this disease.
Harlow’s skin condition made her the target of abuse from her schoolmates. She was bullied and called names such as cow and zebra. The children’s parents also contributed to bullying and discrimination. In one of the school’s she went to, Harlow managed to join a group of friends. However, one day, they suddenly stopped hanging out with her.
When she asked them why they stopped being friends with her, they told her that their parents told them that her skin condition was contagious. It must have been a lot to take for an 8-year-old girl. In middle school, the students became violent towards her. She once got into a fight with a girl who consistently mooed at her while she watched a basketball game.
The fight broke out on a cold night and, Harlow let the girl beat her up to get out of the cold. Her skin gets sensitive in extreme temperatures and, all she wanted was to get warm. The next day the girl attacked her again, but this time Harlow overpowered her. The girl never attacked again, but there were more incidents.
Harlow moved to a new school, but the bullying got worse. Harlow detailed in the Cosmopolitan that it was a difficult time for her:
“I remember sitting by my window, wishing upon the stars that my skin condition would go away. I wondered, ‘Why me?’”
The abuse and violence continued in high school. A group of girls attacked her, but she was the one who got expelled from that school. Harlow joined an alternative school, and she was finally able to focus on her studies.
She also got a job at a call center and, she started making her own money. Harlow chose to quit school to focus on her job.
She tried dancing before moving into modeling
When Harlow was a child, she initially wanted to be a ballerina. She took ballet for a while, but she got a groin injury while practicing. She recovered but, a while later, she suffered another groin injury. She decided to quit after her second groin pull.
After she quit high school, a Toronto Journalist, Shannon Boodram, came across Harlow’s Facebook page and she contacted her. Shannon made a YouTube video about Winnie and, it became a big hit. It exposed Harlow to the world. Shannon inspired Winnie to pursue a career in modeling.
Harlow decided to try modeling, but she got dismissed by various agencies. She told Daily Front Row:
“The head of one agency said to me, ‘You have such a beautiful bone structure, you can thank your mom for that, but there’s not really a place for you in the industry, and if you want to be anywhere near the industry, you should probably go into makeup.’ It was a total slap in the face.”
It was a tremendous disappointment for Harlow, but she used it as motivation to succeed. She continued trying and, soon, her efforts paid off.
She was discovered by Tyra Banks
Harlow continued posting her photos on Instagram and sending them to modeling agencies. However, she always got negative responses. One day, she went to an America’s Next Top Model: All Stars fashion show in Toronto. Harlow was surprised by the positive comments she got from the contestants. They told her that if Tyra was at the show, she would have picked Harlow right away.
This experience inspired Harlow and, she auditioned at Fashion Art Toronto. She got picked and, she modeled in eight shows. She posted photos from the shows on social media. Harlow also asked her friends to share the photos and to tag Tyra Banks.
Her efforts paid off, and a casting director from America’s Next Top Model contacted her through a Facebook page created by her younger sister. Tyra spotted Harlow and, she invited her to feature on the show.
Winnie had a stable job in Toronto, and she was working towards her GED. However, she chose to leave it all behind to pursue a career in modeling.
Harlow made the cut and, she appeared on season 14 of America’s Next Top Model. She was one of the 14 finalists but, she was eliminated in the second week of the finals. Her elimination caused an uproar on social media, but she reminded her fans that it was just a show.
She returned to the show in a comeback series featuring other eliminated contestants. The purpose of the series was to give the eliminated contestants an opportunity to return to the main series. Harlow won the audience vote and, she returned to the main show. However, she was eliminated again on the 13th episode.
She is a global supermodel
Harlow’s appearance on America’s Next Top Model exposed her to numerous opportunities. She got to work with the famous British photographer Nick Knight. Harlow told Daily Front Row that Nick empowered her as a model:
“Nick told me I really knew how to work with my body, and that I knew how to model from head to toe. He told me I should show the other models how to move…”
After that, she got into an ad campaign with Adriana Lima for the design label Desigual. Harlow then became a brand ambassador for the design label. She told Daily Front Row that Desigual gave her global recognition:
“My first campaign for Desigual was a pivotal moment for me. They had my face all over the world – in Times Square, Tokyo, all over the Barcelona airport. That was the world’s first major introduction to me as a model. Seeing a video of myself in Times Square was just surreal.
Nick Knight contacted her again to shoot for Italian clothing line Diesel. In 2014, Harlow modeled for Ashish at the London Fashion week. In 2016, Harlow featured in a Sprite commercial.
Harlow has also featured on magazines such as Glamour, Complex, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Ebony.
She is a Victoria’s Secret Model
On 8th September 2018, Winnie announced on an Instagram post that she was a Victoria’s Secret model. The post detailed her experience on the day she auditioned for the role.
Her first appearance for Victoria’s Secret was in November 2018 and, it featured models such as Leomie Anderson, Bella Hadid, and Barbara Palvin. She talked to Teen Vogue about her experience on the runway:
“Walking VS was one of my biggest goals as a model, maybe even my top one, so achieving it made me fell more powerful and confident in my career than I ever have before. I’m excited about taking that confidence and letting it show in everything that I do, whether it’s amazing things in the modeling world or new things that I’ve never thought about doing before. I feel like the sky is the limit now.”
She got her name from Winnie the Pooh
Winnie copied the name Harlow from Jean Harlow. Winnie was a huge Marilyn Monroe fan when growing up and, she initially wanted to use the name, Monroe. However, it didn’t feel right for her and, so she decided to use Jean Harlow’s name. Jean Harlow was one of Marilyn’s biggest inspirations.
She got the name Winnie from a joke she played with her friends. She explained the events of that day to Daily Front Row:
“We were on the phone with some boys, I grabbed the phone from one of my girls, and was like, ‘Don’t give my friends attitude!’ And the boys asked, ‘Who is this?’ I looked over, my friend was wearing a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt, so I said my name was Winnie.”
Therefore, the name Winnie Harlow was born. Her family still refers to her as Chantelle Brown-Young.
She dreamt of being an entertainment journalist
When she was young, Terrence J on BET inspired her to pursue a career in entertainment journalism. Harlow felt that she had the personality to make it as an entertainment journalist. She even auditioned on a VJ search done by MTV in Toronto.
She was 17 at the time and, she got turned away because she lacked experience. The judges advised her to go to journalism school. However, her modeling career took off before she went to college.
MTV allowed Harlow to live her dream at the 2018 VMAs. Harlow hosted the red carpet and, she found out that entertainment journalism wasn’t as easy as it looked on television. She narrated her experience to Daily Front Row:
“I was so nervous! My first thing on-air was me interviewing Shawn Mendes, and luckily, I knew Shawn prior to this, so before we started, I gave him a big hug and was like, ‘Please help me, I’m so nervous!’ Being on the red carpet was too much adrenaline for me. Entertainment journalism is not something I want to pursue anymore, but I’m so grateful I got to live out a dream.”
She is currently dating rapper Wiz Khalifa
The couple first appeared in public together on 6th July 2018 at a Hugo Boss Fashion Show in Berlin. The couple confirmed that they were dating at Khalifa’s album release party on 17th July 2018.
Harlow and Wiz kept close to each other during the party, and they shared some intimate moments. Khalifa’s ex-wife, Amber Rose, supports the relationship. She told Us Weekly that she has met Harlow on several occasions and that she is a sweetheart. Amber and Wiz have a son and, she is excited that Sebastian will have Harlow as a stepmom.
Before dating Wiz Khalifa, there were rumors that Harlow was dating Formula 1 star, Lewis Hamilton. In 2016, the two of them were spotted at the GQ awards and at a Yeezy Fashion Show. These appearances sparked dating rumors, but the couple didn’t confirm anything.
Harlow has also been linked to Canadian rapper, Drake and American Actor, Nick Cannon. However, at the moment, she is fully committed to Wiz Khalifa.
She is an inspiration to many
Harlow overcame immense adversity to be the superstar that she is today. She serves as an inspiration to many people who are facing challenges in life.
Harlow wrote in the Cosmopolitan about how she overcame the hate:
“People sometimes ask when I learned to love myself…I didn’t have a problem with myself or my skin. I had a problem with the way people treated me because of my skin… I had to relearn how to love myself by forgetting the opinions of everyone else and focusing on myself…You only have one life. Live it for yourself, not for anyone else.”
Winnie appeared on a Ted Talk titled My Story Is Painted on My Body where she encouraged people to embrace their uniqueness.
Harlow inspires many people all around the world to believe in themselves. One future star who draws inspiration from Winnie is the aspiring model, April Star. Harlow and April share the same skin disorder.
The two of them met on The Real in 2015 in an emotional episode. April looks up to Harlow and, she hopes to be as successful as her role model.
She has worked with various artists including Beyoncé
Harlow appeared on the video of Beyonce’s hit song Freedom. The video directors failed to give details about the video when they first contacted Harlow’s agent. Her agent was, therefore, initially reluctant about the idea of appearing on the video.
She would have missed out on the opportunity if she didn’t receive a call from a friend of a friend who worked on Beyonce’s team. After the call, she boarded a flight to New Orleans, where they shot the video.
Harlow has also appeared on other music videos including Eminem’s Guts Over Fear and The Black Eyed Peas’ Where Is The Love.
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