Dave Rodney, Contributor
A ravishingly beautiful young woman who was recently grappling with thoughts of suicide has now found herself among the finalists on the television smash series America’s Top Model. She is Chantelle Brown-Young, 19, and although she was born and lives in Canada, her roots are firmly anchored in several parishes across Jamaica from where her parents originate.
Chantelle, who is also called Winnie, is currently sequestered at a secret location with no access to cell phones, social media, computers, press interviews, family nor friends for the duration of the television taping. But her journey to one of the most sought-after platforms in the American fashion industry was at best a perilous and bumpy ride.
Chantelle is undoubtedly an oddball in the sequined beauty and fashion industries where flawlessness is nurtured and celebrated. She suffers from the skin condition called vitiligo, a disorder she’s had to endure since childhood that gives her facial and body skin two distinct colour tones- a light shade of chocolate, and white. Pop star Michael Jackson also suffered from the same condition. This skin disorder is a result of a malfunction of the immune system. It affects less than 0.5 per cent of the population, but its impact on Chantelle’s life has been profound.
“While growing up, I was teased, ridiculed and bullied and called names like cow, zebra and all manner of other disparaging slurs”, the beauty revealed via a video recording prior to the media blackout. “The continuous harassment and the despair that it brought on my life was so unbearably dehumanising that I wanted to kill myself”, she disclosed.
Chantelle’s mom, Lisa Brown who lives outside Toronto but who has roots in Trelawny and Clarendon in Jamaica told The Gleaner in an exclusive story that her daughter had more than her fair share of challenges while growing up due to the vitiligo. “Chantelle is a sweet, beautiful, outgoing teenager and while she was being abused, I didn’t stop praying that God would help me to find a way”, she said.
The prayers were eventually answered. After changing schools and heading in the wrong direction with the wrong company for a while, Chantelle suddenly realised that she was really in control of her destiny, but only if she was prepared to radically change the way she saw herself. So instead of blaming vitiligo for her woes, she began embracing her flaw, while at the same time pushing back the negative energies and the negative people who surrounded her.
With her new attitude, she soon discovered that the world wasn’t such a bad place after all, and a flood of new opportunities started to come her way, including photo shoots, magazine spreads and her eventual selection as a finalist or the 21st season of America’s Next Top Model contest.
“I want to be America’s next top model because it’s a lifelong dream”, she declared in her pitch video. “I am the underdog and I want to prove that one can follow one’s dreams despite all the flaws and setbacks”, she continued.
To help her to achieve her goal of becoming America’s Next Top Model, Chantelle has the full support of both her parents, her younger sister Christina, 10, other family members and friends. Her dad, Windsor Young, lives in Savanna-la-Mar from where he operates an auto body shop and he is as proud as a Trident peacock. Chantelle visits him in Westmoreland on a regular basis and he very much wants to see her win the contest.
“I can’t stop thanking God for this wonderful blessing”, her mom said. “I am just so thrilled with my daughter’s turnaround, with her new level of confidence, and the fact that her high school recently invited her back there to do a motivational talk to the children”, Lisa Brown added.
America’s Next Top Model was created by model and TV host Tyra Banks and the reality show will broadcast nationally within the US and Canada on the CW television outlets. The season kicks off in the summer and six men and six women are competing for cash, lucrative modelling contracts alongside endorsement and management deals. Audience participation through voting is a big part of the show’s excitement and those wishing to vote can go to the voting web site http://www.cwtv.com/thecw/antmvoting.