Winnie Harlow has spoken out to defend some of her fans who were accused of “blackface” when they recreated her skin in photos paying homage to the model and her Vitiligo – a condition that causes loss of skin pigmentation.
“It's one thing to recreate my skin & wear a crown in a photo & it's another to recreate my face & then wear a noose (which is not the case),” Harlow said in an Instagram post. “There is a difference in love vs. hate & it's easy to see.”
Many of the fans who posted photos in makeup that resembled Harlow’s skin pattern were White; however other races also participated in the trend.
Several Black fans found the images offensive and felt they exhibited cultural appropriation and were examples of blackface, but Harlow’s feelings were on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
“My response to this is probably not what a lot of people want but here it goes: every time someone wants fuller lips, or a bigger bum, or curly hair, or braids does not mean our culture is being stolen,” she said in an Instagram post responding to the controversy that ensued over the photos.
“Have you ever stop [sic] to realize these things used to be ridiculed and now they're loved and lusted over. No one wants to "steal" our look here. We've just stood so confidently in our own nappy hair and du-rags and big asses (or in this case, my skin) that now those who don't have it love and lust after it. Just because a black girl wears blue contacts and long weave doesn't mean she wants to be white and just because a white girl wears braids and gets lip injection doesn't mean she wants to be black.”
She went on to say that she feels like the recreations are meant to show love and embrace her as a beautiful model despite her condition. “I appreciate these people recreating, loving and broadcasting something to the world that once upon a time I cried myself to sleep over,” she said.
Harlow was right about one thing, her response was not something people wanted to hear because it wasn’t received very well by many of her fans and followers.
Some went as far as to call her names, racial slurs, and write her opinion off as “ignorance.” People even put her race into question by saying she, "isn’t really Black" because she has a multicultural background.
She took to Instagram two more times and continued to emphasize her points and stand her ground on her views.
“Our culture is something beautiful to wear and to be celebrated, rather than getting offended and upset. And when a black fan paints their face to look like mine then what...will u turn it into "appropriation of vitiligo" or will u be able to except something's as public examples of LOVE?” [sic].
Other women with Vitiligo have shared their take on the issue, one Instagram user who goes by "VitiligoQueen" said that although she agrees with Harlow that the fans were not doing blackface and cultural appropriation isn't a factor in this case, she also understood why people were angry.
She explained that Vitiligo is a condition that causes real emotional pain for people and these fans will never understand that because at the end of the day, they can wipe off their Vitiligo makeup...but those living with the disease cannot.