The Untold Truth Of Winnie Harlow

If you haven't yet heard about Winnie Harlow, the stunning model who's all the rage in the beauty world, you're missing out. In addition to being absolutely gorgeous, Harlow also stands out because of her unique skin, the result of vitiligo, a skin condition in which pigment loss occurs in patches. But that only contributes to Harlow's one-of-a-kind look, which has landed her on the cover of the best fashion magazines and front and center on the runway.

But unsurprisingly, there's a lot more to Harlow than her pretty face and captivating skin. She's a proud Black woman, and was tapped by Queen Bey herself to appear in the 2016 masterpiece Lemonade, according to Grazia. She also might look familiar because she was a contestant on America's Next Top Model in 2014.

But what else is there to know about Harlow, who's clearly a trailblazer in the industry? Just where did she come from, and what led her to start modeling? Read on to discover the untold truth of Winnie Harlow.

Winnie Harlow was severely bullied in school

Although Winnie Harlow is a world-famous model now with plenty of accolades to her name, she was severely bullied because of her vitiligo when she was younger — to the point she wound up dropping out of school to start homeschooling instead, according to CNN. But that doesn't mean she somehow transformed in order to become beautiful, as she knows she always has been. "People dig so deep into the fact that I was bullied, and this whole story of me being an ugly duckling," she explained in an interview with The Daily Front Row. "No, I actually was never an ugly duckling. I was always a swan; I was just told not to see that." 

In retrospect, Harlow has clarity on the subject and some wisdom to offer those who don't quite understand. "The problem is seeing [vitiligo] as a problem from the jump," she continued. "The issue was me being bullied, not me having vitiligo. It's odd to me that people didn't understand how rude it is to define me by my skin."

Winnie Harlow never aspired to be a model

With Winnie Harlow's innate natural beauty combined with her slender bod, you'd think that she wanted to be a model out of the gate. But believe it or not, Harlow wasn't interested in modeling as she had other plans for herself. "To be completely honest I never thought I could become a model growing up," she confessed in an interview with CNN.

However, that changed after a fateful encounter with a renowned photographer who had some career-changing advice for Harlow. "I started pursuing modeling after I had an interview with a Toronto photographer, Shannon Boodram, and she encouraged me to continue pushing," she continued. "From there I started to build myself up by leveraging social media."

It was Harlow's social media savvy that landed her on Season 21 of America's Next Top Model, thanks to fans tagging Tyra Banks — one of many celebs who look totally different without makeup — in her photos. After that, Harlow was on her way up and ready to find the next opportunity. 

This is what Winnie Harlow wanted to be when she grew up

Given that Winnie Harlow wasn't dreaming of the runway as a child, there had to be other ambitions percolating in her young mind. Indeed there were several, the first a profession being one for which many young girls pine. "When I was a child, my first career goal was to be a ballerina," she recalled in an interview with The Daily Front Row. "I used to take ballet, until I pulled my groin. Twice. The first time, I recovered, but when I did it again, that was the end of that."

Harlow's next career goal was to be an entertainment journalist, as she cut her teeth watching MTV, BET, and E! News. She actually got to give it a shot later when she hosted the red carpet for the MTV VMAs, but that only affirmed for her that modeling is where she belongs. "Being on the red carpet was too much adrenaline for me," she continued. "Entertainment journalism is not something I want to pursue anymore, but I'm so grateful I got to live out a dream."

This is Winnie Harlow's real name

While Winnie Harlow is a fantastic name, it's not the moniker that the model was born with — that would be Chantelle Brown-Young. The Winnie part of her name is actually inspired by Winnie the Pooh, and it evolved out of a joke among her friends. "We were on the phone with some boys, I grabbed the phone from one of my girls, and was like, 'Don't give my friends attitude,'" she shared in an interview with The Daily Front Row. "And the boys asked, 'Who is this?' I looked over, my friend was wearing a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt, so I said my name was Winnie." Thus a legend was born. And, while there are some messed up things everyone ignores in Winnie the Pooh, we're grateful for its influence on Harlow's name.

Harlow decided to keep that name when she became a model in order to keep her professional life and personal life separate. "When I started working, it felt kind of natural to just continue with it," she continued. "Harlow comes from Jean Harlow; I'm a really big Marilyn Monroe fan, but I didn't want to use Monroe, because that felt cheesy." Given that Monroe — one of several celebs whose deaths remain mysterious — looked up to Harlow, it's a natural fit.

She may be a thin model, but Winnie Harlow loves food

If you're familiar with the modeling industry, you're probably aware that "straight sized" models have to stay pretty slender in order to work regularly. And while Winnie Harlow is indeed super svelte, that doesn't mean she's willing to starve herself — she's far too adventurous for that. "I literally love food," she gushed in an interview with Elle. "I went to Mykonos two weeks ago and looked at the menu and was like, 'Oh my gosh, sea urchin, I've never had that before.'" So, naturally, she had to have it.

Harlow even ordered the sea urchin after her friends tried to dissuade her from doing so, showing just how open-minded she is when it comes to trying new foods. "I was like, 'Bring it on!' I tasted it and didn't like it so I didn't finish it," she continued. "But I tasted it. I will always try something." She added that the craziest thing she's ever eaten is likely frog legs.

Winnie Harlow is sick of talking about her skin

Anyone who's been the victim of bullying can tell you how traumatizing it is, or that it shredded their confidence and left them with low self-esteem. But if there are any lasting scars on Winnie Harlow, she's not wasting her time dwelling on them, as she's moved on from that time in her life. "Eventually I learned that my opinion of myself matters so much more than anyone else's and I wish I'd known it earlier," she confessed in an interview with Grazia. "One day, I just didn't give a f**k anymore." We are so here for this, Winnie!

On top of that, Harlow knows that's she so much more than someone with a skin condition, and she is near done having to educate people about it. "I am honestly so sick of talking about my skin, literally so sick of it," she continued. "I hope one day I can just stop talking about it."

Winnie Harlow doesn't consider herself a role model

For as often as people have called Winnie Harlow "brave" (much to her ire), telling her that she's a role model for everyone with vitiligo — well, that's just not a label that Harlow accepts. "I don't believe in role models," she revealed in an interview with Forbes. "I don't think anyone should be put on a pedestal or made to feel like someone you should emulate. You should want to be yourself." That's not to say that she minds being inspirational to people, but she's not here for the rest of it — and we don't blame her one bit.

Rather, Harlow is more focused on carving out her own place in the world, and being deeply true to her authentic self. "I try not to compare myself to anyone else," she continued. "It's inspiring to see my girls in my industry doing the things that they're doing. But I have my own path that I have to walk and you just can't compare."

This is how Winnie Harlow dealt with an insensitive photographer

As an internationally famous, highly successful, A-list model, Winnie Harlow gets to work with some of the best photographers in the business. So when she was approached by a photographer backstage during a high-profile fashion event, she was willing to work with him. "Two years ago, I did a runway for London Fashion Week," she recalled in a 2016 interview with Grazia. "I was backstage afterwards and this photographer was like, 'Oh my god, I have the perfect picture I want to take of you.'" Naturally, Harlow was interested.

But rather than escort her to a well-curated set or request that she pose with specific people, this photographer turned out to be a real jerk. "He walked me over to this ironing board that had a cow print on it," she continued. "I just looked at him like, you idiot. I turned and walked away without even giving him a response." Obviously, he didn't deserve one, Winnie!

Winnie Harlow is passionate about saving the bees

When it comes to causes that Winnie Harlow is passionate about, there are several, though one in particular inspired her to partner with Burt's Bees to make a difference: She wants to help protect and save bee populations. "Even before I got involved with the #BringBackTheBees campaign, my mother was talking to me about how all the bees are disappearing," she explained in an interview with Vogue. "When I heard about the campaign I knew it was definitely something that I want to be a part of." 

There's a hint of irony in the situation, as, when Harlow was younger, she wasn't exactly gunning to be friends with bees. "My sister jokes with me about it though because when I was young I was so afraid of bees that I once ran away, fell over, and ended up scraping both of my knees," she continued. "She finds it hilarious that I was running away from them as a child and now I'm trying to save them as an adult."

Being cast in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was a dream come true for Winnie Harlow

When it comes to Winnie Harlow's specific modeling ambitions, she's not afraid to shoot for the moon. So her top goal was to walk in a very high-profile fashion show, arguably one of the most important in the business. "Obviously the top things for a model are Vogue covers, Victoria's Secret and such, so I always wanted the best for myself," she shared in an interview with Vanity Fair. "Obviously, Victoria's Secret is the best." 

So when Harlow found out that she had been cast in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 2018, she was overcome with emotion. "I started crying," she continued. "Literally, I immediately just dropped everything that was in my hand and started bawling." Congrats, Winnie!

As for what Harlow has her eyes on for the future now that she's done what she wanted more than anything else? "[More] magazine covers ... You can never have enough. Ever," she added.

Winnie Harlow got cozy with this high-profile musician

With her incredible looks, successful career, and keen intellect, Winnie Harlow could pretty much have anyone she wants as a romantic partner. And from the looks of it, she got pretty cozy with rapper Wiz Khalifa on several occasions, as was evident from a post on his Instagram page from 2018. "Wiz & Winnie," he wrote in the caption (via iHeartRadio), accompanied by heart emojis. A few weeks after that, Khalifa posted another snap of them on Instagram, this time with her sitting in his lap. That looked pretty Instagram official to us!

Harlow and Khalifa also posed on the red carpet together at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show after party, not afraid to show a little PDA. But as to whether or not they were serious or planning to take things to the next level was unclear at the time. However, they've since split up, as noted by E! News in October 2019.

Winnie Harlow has no chill when it comes to this celeb

Although Winnie Harlow doesn't believe in role models, she definitely admires some of the celebs she grew up watching and listening to. In particular, she's a huge fan of Nicki Minaj, and she has been in love with Minaj's music forever. "I've loved Nicki since I was 12 years old," she revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair. "I was introduced to her mixtapes when I was in middle school. That's been one of my favorite artists for the longest time. I always wanted to meet her."

Well, not only has Harlow now had the chance to meet Minaj, but now the two are friends. So when Minaj once had to cancel on her last minute, she called Harlow right away, apologized, and asked if she was annoyed with her. Harlow's response? "'I mean, I'm annoyed, but the fact that you called just blows that completely out of the water,'" she continued. To Vanity Fair, Harlow noted, "Since then, I've had not only a love for her but such a respect for her." While there are a number of celebs who can't stand Nicki Minaj, Winnie Harlow apparently just isn't one of them.

This is who Winnie Harlow considers a beauty icon

When it comes to Winnie Harlow's beauty icons, besides Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow, she's been interested in the styling of another legend, the actress and singer Cher. "Recently, I have been loving Cher's old looks," she shared in an interview with Vogue. "I've been looking through a lot of them and just seeing how she used to experiment with her hair, her looks and her outfits." She added that she would jump at the opportunity to re-create one of Cher's iconic looks for a shoot. 

In particular, Harlow admires Cher for her willingness to step outside of the box and take fashion risks. "In one photograph, she has this really epic outfit with her stomach out, and I just absolutely admire it," she continued. "Sometimes it's hard to try new things, but she is living proof that you shouldn't be afraid to experiment with your style."

Appearing on America's Next Top Model didn't do anything for her career, according to Winnie Harlow

Getting the chance to appear on a show like America's Next Top Model is a goal for a lot of aspiring models, both because of the exposure it brings and because of the guidance it can provide those looking to break into the industry. And although many people first got to know Winnie Harlow because of the modeling competition show, she says that's not what jump-started her career. "So, I really started after the show, cause that really didn't do anything for my career," she revealed in an interview on What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. "It doesn't do anything for any model's career, realistically." Oof!

Rather, it was her work with established photographers that gave her the chance to make it big. "A photographer from London hit me up — major photographer, Nick Knight — and he was like, 'Hey, I've seen your photos online, and I want to do a shoot with you,'" she continued. "It went viral, and I got campaigns from there, and it hasn't stopped since."