Models that move us

Chantelle Brown aka Winnie Harlow, Photo: @winnieharlow

Chantelle Brown aka Winnie Harlow, Photo: @winnieharlow

There’s a huge elephant in the room when it comes to modelling, and this time it’s not about what the elephant should eat to keep her figure.

It has nothing to do with clothes or fitness instructors, and not even about the endless rivalry between “size 0” and “plus size” models. For once, the buzz goes beyond the body and moves to an area so uncomfortable that it could give Karl Lagerfeld a nervous twitch for weeks.

Could it be… Is it even possible… Do we dare say that modelling is now shifting more and more focus towards the magical “inner beauty” than the obvious physical one?

Consider me an idealist living in a fairy tale world. No, I mean it, DO please consider me one. If I have to glue those pink lenses to my eyes, I will do it without even blinking. Literally. But with or without the rose-colored glasses, anyone can notice the shift, mostly due to social media and viral content.

Models that have broken classical standards of beauty are now inspiring us to look behind the glamour and be inspired by them in our everyday life. Here are four models whose stories will fill your eyes with tears of sadness and joy at the same time (basically a regular day in every woman’s life).

1. A model for courage  Alex Minsky
Meet retired Marine Cpl. Alex Minsky, who was awarded with a Purple Heart for his heroic military service. He’s recently started modelling and conquered television and the Internet after he revealed his impressive life story.

In 2009, less than a month into his first tour in Afghanistan, Alex ran over a roadside bomb. His right leg was instantly blown off below the knee, his jaw was broken, and his right arm was shredded to pieces. The hit had also caused him a brain injury that dragged his chances of survival close to zero.

A natural born fighter, Alex woke up after 47 days in a coma and spent a year and a half in hospital. And yet, despite his incredible strength, depression caught up on him and pushed him down a slippery slope straight into alcoholism. His escape came in the form of fitness, with 6 days a week spent in the gym to take his mind off alcohol and depression.

That’s where a fashion photographer saw him and made him an offer to leave the past behind and start over as a model discovered him.

Surely, if he didn’t have the David Beckham body and the sexy tattoos, he wouldn’t be in our Facebook news feeds right now. But his prosthetic leg that he shows in each and every photo shoot remains a lesson of courage and ambition that has inspired thousands all over the world.

2. A model for inner strength – Stefanie Reid
Stefanie is double Paralympic medalist in the long jump and 200m sprint, a five-time world record holder, and European long jump champion.

She dedicated her life to sports ever since she was a little girl, but a terrible boating accident left her without her right foot when she was 15. Faced with the impossibility of running, Stefanie decided to focus on studying and graduated as valedictorian with a scholarship at Queen’s University in Canada.

While studying biochemistry, she gave running another try and ultimately decided to focus on her dream of becoming an athlete. Now she is the poster-girl for inner strength and complete dedication, walking on the London Fashion Week like she owns it.

3. A model for kindness  Madeline Stuart
Madeline Stuart is an 18-year-old sweetheart from Brisbane, Australia, who’s just started her modelling career. Unlike most adolescent girls whose daily problems range from covering up pimples to overdosing on diet pills, Maddy has an extra difficulty that not many people could manage so wonderfully. She has Down Syndrome, and yet that hasn’t stopped her from following her dream of becoming a model.

The road leading to her first photoshoot was anything but smooth. For years she struggled with weight gain due to her genetic condition, which also cause her heart problems. Finally, she turned to healthy eating and fitness to get in shape and make it big in fashion.

But her ambition isn’t even her top quality. People around her say she oozes happiness and kindness like no one else. This not only makes her the most loving daughter and the best friend someone can have, but also a favorite of photographers who love to see her shining on camera.

4. A model for self-confidence – Winnie Harlow
Winnie Harlow is one of the most beautiful Canadian fashion models. She got her start on the American TV show called “America’s Next Top Model.” Now she’s a brand ambassador for Desigual, the Spanish clothing brand, alongside supermodel Adriana Lima.

Winnie Harlow is one of the most beautiful Canadian fashion models who starred in the American TV show “America’s Next Top Models”. Now she’s a brand ambassador for Desigual, the Spanish clothing brand, alongside supermodel Adriana Lima.

What makes Winnie so special is not her skin condition that causes white patches to appear on her body, called vitiligo. It’s the self-confidence that helped her overcome the bullying and name-calling to become who she is today.

Despite going through a traumatic childhood and adolescence, up to the point where she had to pull out of high school to escape her bullies, she now confidently talks about body positivity.

Now that she’s gained so much attention, she’s using her success to help others gain self-confidence on one hand… or resign from the position of bully, on the other.

These four success stories seem taken from a Hollywood blockbuster, there’s no doubt about it. “Changing the face of fashion one photoshoot at a time,” they say. One can only hope.

Let’s not forget, however, that none of our heroes above were spared harsh diets and insane hours at the gym to get the privilege of modelling.

And, at the end of the day, they might just make us believe that all horrible life turns and sad childhood stories can turn to success and glamour. But I say let’s put on those rosy lenses and hope that, little by little, the small steps and the successful individuals eventually lead to a bigger, more meaningful change in the world.

Valentina Volcinschi is a full-time copywriter and a passionate full-hearted writer. She’d love to be Zen, but she’s totally Buzz. She calms herself down with a good dose of post-rock beats, a bucketful of ice cream, and the possibility of a whimsical parallel universe.