Perfectly Imperfect: Uniquely Different People Who Teach Us A Thing Or Two About Body PositivityBy Amanda Cooper
We are still waiting for the day when we’ll embrace our diversity and understand that our differences are part of what makes the world a beautiful place. Sadly, we may be light years from reaching this place of shared enlightenment, and as things stand, being different isn’t something everyone appreciates. We rounded up a list of people whose unique appearances didn’t always make things easy for them when growing up. Somewhere along the way, they learned to make the most out of the aspects that make them different to become famous and successful in their respective careers, whether it is entertainment, music, acting, or fashion. Above all, these are people who teach us that despite our appearances, beliefs, and other differences, we are all human.
Winnie Harlow is a highly recognizable person on this list. She competed in America’s Next Top Model. The show’s host, Tyra Banks, came across Harlow on Instagram, which visually marked her stardom. She reached the finals during that 2014 season.
Since then, she’s done photoshoots for publications like Glamour, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. Her unique appearance is because of vitiligo, a skin condition that causes patches of skin to lose their pigment. Harlow has also appeared in music videos for artists like The Black Eyed Peas, Calvin Harris, and Eminem.
Trendsetter and history maker are some of the words that describe Mikayla Holmgren well. Hailing from Minnesota, Holmgren became the first Miss Minnesota USA contestant with Down syndrome. She’s the first woman in America with Down syndrome to compete in any Miss USA state pageant.
Holmgren ended up winning two awards during the pageant, and she also got her rightful place under the spotlight out of it. She also boasts a huge social media following, with 25.6K Instagram followers as of June 2021. Holmgren is also a dancer, and it seems like the sky’s the limit for her.
Lotte Zuidema first spent her time studying product design, and fortunately, her unique looks also made her marketable within the modeling world. Beyond her beauty, Zuidema became a magnet for photographers and agencies because of her sheer confidence and charisma.
A Dutch descendent, Zuidema, stands out because of her albinism. Zuidema has faced the stigma surrounding albinism; it’s a rare genetic condition affecting the pigment in the body. Different agencies have represented her, and we are sure that she will grace the covers of major publications. Zuidema is a prime example of pushing beyond her struggles and accepting one’s uniqueness.
Sarai Lewis has a condition called heterochromia, characterized by naturally different iris colors. Complete heterochromia refers to when one iris is an entirely different color than the other, and that’s what Lewis has. Lewis made ripples as a social media influencer, and it helped propel her to the world of modeling.
Lewis boasts of 25.3K Instagram followers, and she never seems short of job opportunities across the globe. Boss Models represents her, and on top of her eyes, she also has a typical eye-catching look, making her the full package deal.
Daniel Rupert is better known by his stage name Rain Dove. He is an actor, model, and activist known for his involvement in subversive fashion. In essence, Rain Dove is gender-nonconforming and poses in photoshoots as either a female or male.
Dove explained that pronouns have never mattered as descriptors. Dove is fine with people choosing which pronouns to use. Call him or her, he, it, one, or she; Dove says that the only aspect that matters is the sound of positivity.
Standing three-foot-four, Dru Presta has a form of dwarfism and achondroplasia. She is the only one in her family with the condition, and she faced bullying while growing up in Reno, Nevada, on account that she was different.
By her age of 25, she has already broken barriers in the fashion industry. Presta moved to LA to try her luck at modeling, hoping to inspire other people with the same condition. She says that her goal is to see everyone in the fashion world be accepted and walk the runway.
Elisany da Cruz Silva
A native Brazilian, Elisany da Cruz Silva, is the world’s tallest woman. Silva is six-foot-nine, which didn’t stop her from finding love with a shorter man. Her boyfriend Francinaldo Carvalho is five-foot-four. Silva is also taller than her siblings and parents.
Silva leveraged her height to join the modeling industry. She also announced plans to walk down the aisle to get hitched to her boyfriend, Francinaldo. He popped the question down on one knee during a romantic walk they took on the beach.
Guinness World Records acknowledges Elaine Davidson as the world’s “Most Pierced Woman.” When a Guinness official examined her in 2000, Davidson had 462 piercings, and 192 of them were on her face. One year later and she had 720 piercings in total.
In 2015 Davidson performed at the Edinburgh Festival, and The Guardian reported that she had upped her piercings to 3,950. Davidson didn’t stop adding piercings on her body, and by the time she exchanged vows with her now ex-husband in 2011, she had 6,925 of them.
With 40-inch legs, La Ostergren truly stands out from other ladies. Sadly, the distinct feature didn’t earn her favor back in school, and she endured bullying. Ostergren explained that both her legs were crooked at birth due to the constricted space she had within her mother’s womb.
She stands at five-foot-ten with her legs accounting for three-foot-four of her height. From 2013, Ostergren took up a strict fitness routine, which she documented on her Instagram account. As of 2021, she boasts 247K followers on Instagram. Ostergren is married to Torbjorn Ostergren, a Swedish bodybuilding champion.
Angel Giuffria & Friends
People with disabilities have to live through the stigma of being thought of as having limitations. This group of friends set out to embrace their limb difference and spread awareness about it. Angel Giuffria, in the bottom right, posted the photo, which soon went viral.
Giuffria is a proud differently-abled woman, and she isn’t afraid to speak about it. She regularly takes part in women’s marches to highlight critical issues about disability rights. Giuffria is a congenital amputee who was born without a left arm. She was amongst the youngest to don a myoelectric hand when she was four months old.
Ava Clarke has Oculocutaneous albinism, which describes a group of rare disorders marked by the complete lack of or reduced presence of melanin pigment in the body. Melanin is responsible for giving eyes, hair, and skin color. The mutation of specific genes in the body responsible for melanin production causes these conditions.
Clarke is legally blind on account of her albinism, and she uses a variety of visual aids to help her. She has achieved quite a lot, including featuring in Beyoncé’s 2016 visual album Lemonade. The same year, she also graced Vogue magazine.
Danielle Kroon is another model on this list who has heterochromia. In her case, she has one blue eye while the other is brown. The sweetest thing ever is the fact that she has a furry little friend with the same condition.
A range of factors causes the condition, including genetic abnormalities. Animals can also develop the problem, and Huskies, in particular, are prone to it. Kroon has a decent following on Instagram with 8.7K followers. She also boasts of a BSc in Medicine with a focus on Health Care Management.
Senegalese Khoudia Diop is someone who causes people to do a double-take when looking at her. She is the stunningly gorgeous Melanin Goddess whose photos are constantly making the rounds on social media. Diop got bullied as a kid due to her dark skin tone, but at 15, she moved to Paris, and the rest is history.
Diop now goes by Melanin Goddess, a nickname she adapted herself, and she wears it with pride. She attended college in New York and took part in The Colored Girl Project. It earned her fame, and in a matter of days, her followers on Instagram shot up from 300 to 350K, and she currently has 509K followers.
Laura O’Grady proudly wears what many people would try to fix with surgery. O’Grady has a pair of bold ears paired with proportionately sharp facial features. She is Irish by descent, and she’s since appeared in several editorials for Schon Magazine, W Magazine, and Numero.
Supreme Management Paris and New York, as well as others, manage O’Grady. She wowed onlookers when walking the runway for Emilia Wickstead’s spring showcase. A lot of people find her inspiring, and she has 20.6K followers on Instagram. O’Grady has said that she believes beauty comes from kindness and inner confidence.
Man With Segmental Vitiligo
This man with vitiligo on one side of his face is truly eye-catching. His identity is unknown, but we imagine he gets a lot of attention because of his looks. Vitiligo is segmental when it is restricted to one side of the face, like in this man’s case, or one side of the body.
Generalized vitiligo is more common, and it appears in several parts of the body. The mucosal variety affects mucous membranes, and the focal type is rare, only affecting a small area. The universal type is marked by 80% of the skin lacking pigment.
Swantje Paulina has a face full of freckles, and it adds a gorgeous twist to her beauty. Her freckles made her self-conscious as an adolescent. Paulina eventually understood that they made her stand out, and they don’t detract anything from her beauty.
A German native, Paulina has already made considerable strides in the modeling industry thanks to her natural beauty. Paulina has a huge fan base on Instagram with 342K followers. She has teamed up with a long list of brands like Kapten and Son, H&M, Paul Hewitt, Mojo Snowboarding, and Bershka.
Shankar Jalota noticed that he had light patches on his chest and eye when he turned 15. He tried to hide it from family and friends using makeup, but eventually, he decided to embrace his vitiligo. Jalota explained that he soon became accustomed to people staring at him.
He slowly regained the confidence he had lost after his diagnosis. It even became a springboard for him to become an advocate for body positivity. He explained that he aims at spreading messages about body positivity with hopes of inspiring other people like him.
Canada Elite Models saw the potential in Aleece Wilson to become a star. Wilson never thought she had what it takes because she had never seen stars who look like her. She soon realized that she was wrong, and her path to self-acceptance taught her that she could lead the way in the change we want to see on the runway.
It wasn’t long before she walked the runway for big names such as Alexander Wang’s New York show. She has worked with brands like Kanye West’s Yeezy, Marc Jacob, and Maison Margiela. Wilson has also featured in an editorial for U.S. Vogue.
Em is a young woman who likes to surround herself with a bit of mystery. She’s never disclosed her real name and goes by the mononym Em. She explained that she wants her modeling to precede other details about her.
Em is yet another model with vitiligo who is fully embracing her different look. She has 9.9K followers on Instagram, and she also says that she’s acting and based in Los Angeles. Her bio also reminds everyone to love the skin they are in because it’s the only one they’ll ever have.
There’s no denying that Bee Melvnin is a sight to behold. She has several unique features that collectively make her a beauty like no other. She is from the West African nation of Gambia, and her nationality often throws people off at times because of her heavenly eyes.
Bee also likes wearing white wigs that make her seem like a Manga-inspired character. Melvnin has 369K followers on Instagram, where she describes herself as an anime lover and vegan. Bee, which is her nickname, has promoted several brands, including Sugarbear hair care.
Bera & Tsotne Ivanishvili
These two brothers stand out because of their albinism. Bera Ivanishvili is the famous one out of the duo. He is a Georgian singer, and he also has a record label called Georgian Dream. Bera also has a huge Instagram following with 1.4 million followers.
He is married to Nanuka Gudavadze, a Georgian blogger and model. They tied the knot in 2018, and instead of receiving gifs from their guests, they asked them to donate to foster homes. The couple welcomed their first child, a son, in November 2019.
Harnaam Kaur learned that she had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when she was 12. An imbalance of hormones sparks the syndrome, and the result is often hirsutism describing the growth of body and facial hair. Naturally, it took a toll on Kaur’s self-esteem.
These days Kaur has embraced her difference, and she even joined the modeling world. She is also a motivational speaker, life coach, and anti-bullying activist. Kaur also has a massive fanbase with 160K followers on Instagram. She broke history as the first woman to walk at the 2016 London Fashion Week with a beard.
Cat Eye Syndrome
Cat-eye syndrome (CES) refers to a chromosomal disorder that presents itself differently in different people. Most patients suffering from it have iris coloboma, malformations of the eyes. The condition often doesn’t affect intellectual ability, and if it does, it’s usually mild to normal.
The condition presents itself with several other symptoms, including unusually shaped ears, widely spaced eyes, a cleft lip, urinary tract problems, congenital heart defects, skin tags, and developmental delay. CES occurs sporadically and isn’t typically inherited. Rarely is the condition passed down to a child from their parent.
Simone Thomspon goes by Slick Woods, and she’s known for her work in the modeling and acting industry. Thompson stands out because of her features, including a bald head, tattoos, and gapped teeth. She also has a vast social media following with 917K followers on Instagram.
Thompson has represented notable figures and brands, including Marc Jacobs and Rihanna. She’s also featured in a Calvin Klein campaign and graced several international Vogue editions. Models.com has ranked her in their Top 50 Models list. In 2020, Thompson appeared in the film Goldie and received accolades for her performance.
Differences in pupil size characterize Anisocoria. The pupils are the black circles taking up the center of our eyes, and usually, they are the same size in both eyes. Several things cause the condition, and people who have it are either born with it or get it later in life.
The condition can also affect someone temporarily or recurrently. It is accompanied by symptoms like blurred or double vision, loss of vision, nausea, stiff neck, and fever. Underlying factors that lead to the condition include concussions, trauma to the eye, brain tumors, seizure, aneurysm, optic nerve inflammation, or meningitis.
Take one look at Maeva Giani Marshall,and one could be forgiven for thinking the French-American model is just another beautiful girl with a freckled face. Well, think again. When a stroke caused her to develop a unique skin condition, Marshallwas determined to show the world that being different should be celebrated.
When she was 20 years old, Marshallhad a stroke. The prescription drugs in her system wreaked havoc on her liver and caused her to develop an allergic reaction to light. Little did she know that a stroll in the sunlight would cause an allergic reaction resulting in paralysis, third-degree burns, and facial hyperpigmentation.
Haiti-native hailing from Brooklyn, Souffrant Ralph is proof that the fashion industry is finally embracing and celebrating diversity. Photographer Aaron Taylor mentored Ralph during his early career. He was discovered at the age of 13. Growing up, Ralph hated his freckles and wanted to become a dermatologist to help others suffering from similar conditions.
When he made his debut at Yeezy Season 3, Ralph was immediately approached by agencies and signed a contract with Re:Quest Model Management the same day. Today Ralph is grateful for his uniqueness since he is finally able to establish a successful career and get his family out of poverty.
Australian-born Duckie Thot was born to Sudanese parents before moving to New York to pursue a career in fashion. She developed a passion for modeling as a teenager while helping her sister Nikki get ready for phot0shoots. In an industry dominated by light-skinned talent, Thot is truly a breath of fresh air.
While many of us mere mortals require a few touch-ups to achieve a glowing look, Thot’s chocolate-brown skin is naturally radiant and shimmering. After signing with New York Model Management, she made her first major runway walk at Yeezy’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection.
Model Devon Aoki has German, English, and Japanese ancestry. Seemingly born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Aoki is the daughter of Benihana restaurant founder Rocky Aoki and Pamela Hilburger. Her petite build, five-foot-four height, mesmerizing eyes, and down-turned lips became Aoki’s signature look.
Aoki was discovered at the age of 13 and started working immediately with icons like SHOWstudio director Nick Knight and supermodel Kate Moss. During her early career, Aoki was mentored by Moschino’s creative director Jeremy Scott. The two have collaborated regularly on many of his campaigns since, including the 20th anniversary of his Spring/Summer show at New York Fashion Week in 2018.
During her adolescence, Coraline Jouhier’s unusual mixed-race appearance and ginger hair would always be the subject of attention and not always the good kind. Having been bullied as a child due to her unique look, Jouhier also struggled to be accepted by the black community.
After moving to Paris, however, Jouhier was inundated with compliments and realized that her uniqueness was actually her strength. Although numerous modeling agencies approached her, Jouhier decided to pursue her passion for cooking instead. Along with her boyfriend, Daqui Gomis, Jouhier started her food cart business, and their distinctive mashup of food cultures meant that customers were soon lining up to try it.
It’s human nature to be self-conscious about one’s imperfections. In the case of Ukrainian model Arina Lubiteleva, it was her ears. Growing up, she was very sensitive about the size and shape of her ears and would routinely try to hide them behind her brown hair.
Lubiteleva’s transition to modeling came in the wake of her love of art, and she soon learned to embrace the unique shape of her ears. Today, she encourages other people to embrace their quirks and features that make them unique. After partnering with Sharm Models Management, Lubiteleva has traveled in many parts of the world during recent years.
Sara Geurts noticed signs of her sagging skin when she was just seven or eight years old. After puberty, these symptoms started to become more noticeable until she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The connective tissue disorder disrupts collagen production, a protein responsible for the growth of new skin, leading to wrinkles at a young age.
Being the maverick that she is, Geurts is now flipping the script and challenging the everyday standard of beauty in society. No longer self-conscious about her body, she now maximizes every opportunity to show off her unique look and is a campaigner of body positivity.
Although the fashion industry has come a long way to be more diverse in terms of gender and race, there is still some way to go regarding disabilities and genetic abnormalities. Born with Schmid-Fraccaro syndrome, Seattle-based model Caitin Stickels suffers from a condition more commonly known as a cat-eye syndrome.
Stickels was first discovered by photographer Nick Knight when he came across her photos on Instagram. After a private social media exchange, Stickels soon found herself modeling for Knight in a stunning feature in a March 2017 issue of V Magazine.
Russian model and musician Sem Kobelyan is very active and popular in Russian-speaking communities. His unique look is due to vitiligo which not only affects his skin but also affects his hair and eyebrows, creating a very unusual appearance indeed.
Kobelyan has learned to love his condition and flaunt it. Even though not much is known about him in the international English-speaking circles, there is no denying he looks mesmerizing in a very distinctive way. Kobelyan can be seen sporting fashionable apparel on his Instagram page, which now has a following of more than 18k.
Although Willy Cartier might look like he’s of Native American ancestry at first glance, the Vietnam native is actually of mixed descent. Apart from his French and Vietnamese heritage, Cartier also has Senegalese roots. When it comes to his style, the Givenchy model does not like to adopt any particular style and instead focuses on being himself in front of the camera.
After spending his childhood in Vietnam, Cartier moved to France before kicking off his modeling career. Speaking to Hush, he revealed that much of his inspiration comes from entertainment icons from the past, such as Michael Jackson and Marlon Brando.
Fans of America’s Next Top Model will probably remember Allison Harvard as the runner-up from its 12th season as well as from her return on the all-stars season 17 of the reality show. Along with being a model, Harvard is also a talented photographer and artist in her own right.
Harvard is famous for her mesmerizingly large, round blue eyes and has appeared on the cover of magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, ONE, WeTheUrban, and Mega. On September 21, 2012, Harvard announced she would be making her acting debut in the independent feature film Insensate, which was followed by others.
Anything or anyone that has a unique or distinctive look tends to stick out like a sore thumb. In Hamad Jaman’s case, it was no different—he was teased and made fun of by his childhood peers due to the freckles on his face and body.
As a successful and accomplished model today, Jaman attributes much of his success to his unique appearance. One big change that paved his way to a successful career was when Jaman learned to be comfortable in his own skin and flaunt what he has been blessed with.
Born in the Bronx, New York, supermodel Diandra Forrest is the epitome of striking good looks and a unique appearance. During the first ten years of her modeling career, Forrest was the only major model with albinism in the industry.
Forrest is a total knockout with her black heritage, pale skin tone, green eyes, and naturally golden hair. She was first scouted by photographer Shameer Khan who made her believe she had what it would take to become successful. Today, Forrest is an albinism activist and has been very outspoken about normalizing the genetic condition in society.
When an adorable little 12-month-old toddler with big, dark, luscious locks went viral on Instagram, Alex Keith, the CEO of Procter & Gamble’s beauty division took notice. Dubbed by the Internet as Baby Chanco, the adorable little miniature model was hired by Pantene for their ad campaign.
After several high-profile appearances in outlets like People magazine, today, Chanco’s Instagram account boasts 376k followers. Pantene’s campaign featured Chanco and Japanese television announcer Sato Kondo, who was beloved by many for sticking with the original color of her greying tresses. The Pantene Hair we Go campaign was officially launched in October 2019.
Step aside, Cara Delevigne, for there is a new eyebrow queen in town. Take one look at Greek-Cypriot model Sophia Hadjipanteli, and people are immediately drawn to her unibrow. Although she was teased and bullied about it during her early years, today, the messy unibrow is a signature look of Hadjipanteli.
Hadjipanteli is pretty well known in the world of fashion—she has been featured in publications like Vogue, and her Instagram page has close to half a million followers currently. Today, she is partnered with modeling agencies like Premier Model Management in the UK and Muse Management NYC.
After walking on the New York catwalk and appearing on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, Somerset native Jack Eyers also became the first amputee to win Mr. England. When he was 16 years old, Eyers underwent elective surgery to amputate his leg due to a medical condition.
According to Eyers, his amputation was not a disability at all since it opened many more doors and offered opportunities for him to grow as a person and an athlete. As the creator of the TX3 Total Training Tower home gym machine, today, Eyers works as a personal trainer and an online coach.
Hailing from Canada, professional dancer Cassandra Naud is famous for a distinct birthmark under her left eye. During her younger years, Naud reportedly begged her parents to have the embarrassing mark removed. However, when she was older, Naud chose to embrace her unique look, even though she was told by friends to have it surgically removed.
According to Naud, the birthmark is a huge part of her and makes her unique and memorable, helping the Alberta-based dancer stand out from the crowd. Her distinctive look didn’t hinder Naud’s love life either—when she met boyfriend Patrick Cook in Los Angeles in 2014, love was already in the air.
Growing up, Evita Delmundo was no stranger to bullying and was often called a monster due to her head-to-toe hairy moles. According to Delmundo, nobody wanted to be friends with her during her primary education, and she admits to feeling utter loneliness.
When she was 16, The Malaysian native recalls finally learning to accept her body after attending a church camp and socializing. Delmundo never let her skin condition be her weakness and even claimed in an email conversation that the moles were a source of her inner strength. After auditioning for Miss Universe Malaysia, Delmundo was last reported to be working part-time at a local cat cafe.
Since his rise to fame in 2008, thanks to his YouTube videos, New York City native Shaun Ross has enjoyed a successful career as a model and actor. Due to his unique look, Ross has made appearances in magazines and music videos for musicians like Beyoncé and Lana Del Rey. He has also been a part of television shows like American Horror Story and The Man in the High Castle.
Born with albinism, his unique look meant that Ross became the face of Ford Motor Company’s Be Unique ad campaign. Today, Ross is the creator of #InMySkinIWin, and he is also an activist for creating awareness for people with albinism.
Tsunaina’s Tibetan beauty is truly otherworldly. Her distinctive cat-like eyes, soft pillowy lips, glowing skin, and unusually shaped nose make Tsunaina’s facial structure unique. It was her facial features that got the British-Asian beauty discovered on the street by Pat McGrath.
Apart from working for McGrath’s makeup line Mothership, Tsunaina has also been approached by big names like ASAI, Christian Dior, King Kong magazine, and Harpers Bazaar KZ, all of which cannot wait to get a piece of the exotic beauty. Aside from her talent as a model, Tsunaina is also a gifted musician and likes creating music during her spare time.