Albinism: Caught Between Dark and Light

"I probably spend, out of 24 hours, probably 20 hours alone," she said. "If [I could] have one wish, I would say, I'd never be alone."

Along with her social life, Angel's grades were also suffering. The former A student was getting Ds.

Wanting to give public school another shot, Stillman decided on the most extreme kind of makeover -- dyeing her white hair, eyelids and eyebrows a darker color -- a somewhat controversial move in the albinism community, known as "passing," where those with albinism try to conceal their natural features.

By "passing," however, Stillman has finally made the friendships she has always dreamed about.

"They get a look on the outside and then they want to talk to me and then want to see what's on the inside and then they want to be closer friends," she said.

African-American Albino Model Takes Industry by Storm

Tall and blonde with high cheekbones, hazel eyes and full lips, Diandra Forrest, 19, would be anyone's dream girl. When she walked through the doors of the well-known modeling agency, Elite, her former agent Calvin Wilson said he couldn't take his eyes off her pictures.

"She's just very striking," Wilson said. "I remember when I first got them, I was like, 'Wow, she's just incredible.'"

But, along with all the agents' enthusiasm for Forrest's striking beauty, there was concern about her being an African-American with albinism. In an industry where everyone's looking for the next big thing, Forrest insists she's not a gimmick.

"I'm a model, but I'm not a model just because I'm albino," she said. "I have the look, the body and it's just something that I've strived for, that I've always wanted to do."

As one of four children in a close-knit, cash-strapped family in the Bronx, N.Y., many people taunted her and attacked her ethnic heritage.

"People called me 'Powder,' 'White Girl', things like that," she said. "To me, it was offensive because I'm African-American and I didn't want to be called [names] like 'Snow White' or 'White Girl' or anything because, yes, my skin is lighter, but that's not who I am."

Courtesy of Elite Models

Much like Angel, Forrest changed schools numerous times before enrolling at the private New York Institute for Special Education, a school for visually impaired children. There she met her sixth-grade teacher, Melissa Reed -- also an African-American with albinism -- who says the future model was a shy, quiet child -- too afraid to speak up.

"I said to Diandra, 'In my class you don't have to whisper. Don't worry. I won't bite.' And I was determined to make school a place where learning is fun," Reed said.

It was the start of Forrest's metamorphosis, in which her inner beauty came to match her outer beauty and she transformed from a shy girl into an outgoing and sometimes outspoken woman.

Forrest is a symbol of hope wrapped up in a beautiful package because she is living a model's fantasy. She is seeing her career on an upswing, appearing recently in Glamour magazine and walking the runways of Paris, London and New York during Fashion Week. Not only has she fulfilled her dream, she's inspiring many girls to hold on to theirs.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...