“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”—Lao Tzu
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARLOTTA MANAIGO
EDITOR BY ELIZABETH CABRAL
ON SELF LOVE
Winnie Harlow is not looking for anyone’s approval, except her own. A novel idea in a culture driven by likes and followers. Even so, Harlow finds herself at the epicenter of this no holds barred social media platform with over five million people observing the ins and outs of her life as a model, celebrity and proponent of diversity inclusion. Harlow is adamant that the key to her personal and professional success is her commitment to staying true to herself. “It’s amazing that I get to be myself in my life, in my career, and in doing so I inspire so many people, from young to old, female to male, whatever walk of life, and that gives me purpose.”
How does Harlow stay the course while working in an industry that thrives off insecurity and promotes self-doubt? “Everyone has this idea of confidence as a pill you take that’s everlasting, but it’s an every day process.
You have to make the effort mentally, physically, whatever it may be, to continue to be confident. The understanding that, as confident as these people that you look up to may be, it’s not a button that you just press and turn on.”
“You have to discover yourself and sit with yourself and figure out what works best for you. First and foremost, we have to promote self-love. If you can’t accept yourself, you can’t accept others. If we find more role models who encourage this, diver- sity inclusion and positive social change will follow.”
Harlow’s own path to amour propre was not without tribulation. Her strength and perseverance may be rooted in the childhood bullying she endured because of her skin condition vitiligo. Rather than allow that to diminish her spirit it built her up. The very thing that singled her out in childhood has inadvertently brought her to one of her most important roles as a vocal champion of inclusive beauty standards.
“Anyone who is different, who has ever taken a stance for themselves, is taking a step toward diversity. My goal is to have diversity be the standard. It can’t just be a trend. It has to be the only way we all work from this point moving forward.”
Harlow believes the power of change does not lie in the hands of the fashion brands or media outlets, but rather we as empowered consumers demanding that change. “It’s about what you buy, so it’s up to us to support the diversity that we want to see. If that’s what we really want to see, we need to push all those things to these brands and magazines. These outlets will have more choice with which to provide what people want.”
“I like to see diversity on magazine covers because it’s very personal to me; it’s part of my life, my job. A lot of my friends in the industry don’t get a chance to be on covers, myself included.
So, when I do see diversity on covers, regardless of whether I know the magazine or not, whether I know that person or not, I’m going to be buying and supporting. I have magazines that I’ve never opened before, but because I see people of color, or diversity on those covers, I make the effort to support that.
It encourages those magazines to push forward and continue doing what they’re doing. That’s the only way to make it not a trend—it’s a trend if we don’t support. If they see the support, they have no choice but to continue to follow suit.”
As Harlow continues her upward tra- jectory achieving personal and career milestones, she stays ever present in the moment. “I used to write down a list of things I’ve accomplished and things I wanted to accomplish and the goal list was so long. It still is. Recently I decided to just focus on celebrating what I’ve accom- plished in order to feel proud of myself. I have a lot of goals, but I make it a priority to accept myself and my current state too!”
“Anyone who is different, who has ever taken a stance for themselves, is taking a step toward diversity. My goal is to have diversity be the standard. It can’t just be a trend.”
PHOTOGRAPHED AT DRIFT STUDIOS, NEW YORK www.driftstudionyc.com