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She was teased because of her skin. Now her skin's made her a star.

The things that make us different also make us beautiful.

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Winnie Harlow grew up with endless teasing and name calling. The insult of choice? "Zebra."

As a toddler, Winnie Harlow looked like every other happy kid. But at around 4 years old, Winnie's skin slowly started to change.

#tb.. Ya lol 👧before she was👸 #vitiligo #chantellewinnie #attitude #spicegirlsshirt lol. I wish I could ensure that little girl that things would get better, and everything would work out..💭❤
A photo posted by ♔Chantelle Winnie♔ (@winnieharlow) on



Gradually, patches of color on Winnie's arms, legs, and face began to fade from brown to pale pink. Winnie soon learned her changing skin was a result of vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigment. And, as Winnie's skin changed, the teasing started, almost right on cue. Taunts of "cow" and "zebra" followed Winnie through the halls, but she was determined to keep her head up.

"It was really hard growing up. I had to grow thick. People make fun of you and you have to learn how to deal or you break down. I'm not trying to break down so, I have to deal."
— Winnie Harlow

Vitiligo tends to come with invasive questions and stares, but Winnie's comfortable in her skin.

Whether they're asking if it's painful or contagious, Winnie has no problem fielding questions with a dose of honesty and humor.

"It's just a skin condition. It doesn't hurt. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm well. You can breathe the same air as me. We're cool." — Winnie Harlow

What's even more impressive is that technically Winnie could "fix" her skin if she really wanted to. There are treatments that would completely lighten her skin so she'd be all one color, or she could use special makeup to cover her spots. But she's not interested.



Original image from ThoseGirlsAreWild.

Even if you aren't religious, it's pretty inspiring to hear someone fully accept who they are. In 2011, Winnie sat down for " Vitiligo: A Skin Condition Not A Life Changer," where she shared her dreams of someday having her own talk show or working for a magazine. Now, just a few short years later, it's safe to say she's pretty much blown those dreams right out of the water. Can you say supermodel?

These days Winnie can be found strutting down runways and gracing major fashion campaigns where her skin has her standing out.

As the brand ambassador for Desigual, Winnie's face can be seen pretty much everywhere.

A photo posted by ♔Chantelle Winnie♔ (@winnieharlow) on


Here's one of my favorite photos of Winnie. To think that kids made fun of this?! Forget, "cow." This woman is a work of art. Look at how perfectly symmetrical each spot is! She's flawless.

A photo posted by ♔Chantelle Winnie♔ (@winnieharlow) on

But Winnie isn't just a model. For millions of children and adults with vitiligo, she's also a hero.

Winnie's Instagram is filled with magazine spreads, behind-the-scenes photos, and tons of fan art. But those posts are nothing compared to the messages and photos from fans who've found the strength to love themselves because of Winnie.

Came out just to meet me❤️💋 you guys give me life🙏
A photo posted by ♔Chantelle Winnie♔ (@winnieharlow) on


According to the American Vitiligo Foundation, about 1-2% of the global population has vitiligo. And while that doesn't sound like much, that's still millions of people. Millions of people who aren't used to seeing themselves represented in the media, much less represented as something beautiful. This adorable message from the mother of one Winnie's young fans proves how important her supermodel status is for young kids growing up with vitiligo:

A photo posted by ♔Chantelle Winnie♔ (@winnieharlow) on


My heart is officially melting.

Winnie's not the only model whose skin is breaking down barriers. Shaun Ross and Diandra Forrest also prove beauty comes in many shades.

If you don't know Diandra Forrest and Shaun Ross by name (or from hanging out with Beyoncé), you might know them as fashion's first albino supermodels.

One of many, and one of my fav shots with @shaundross
A photo posted by Diandra Forrest (@diandraforrest) on

But Shaun and Diandra aren't just albino, they're African-American albinos. So, of course, that adds a whole 'nother level of, "Wait, you're black but you're not black!? Whaaaa?" ridiculousness.


Original images of Diandra Forrest from Albinism Awareness Campaign.

And just like Winnie, Diandra and Shaun have both dealt with bullying. Diandra even shared in her interview for the Albinism Awareness Campaign that it wasn't just kids. Adults would stare and make comments about her too. For Shaun, it wasn't just being called names, like "powder" and "white bread"; one bullying incident ended in violence, with a classmate stabbing him six times! Today Shaun and Diandra serve as inspirations for anyone who's ever felt ashamed of their differences.



Original image from Shaun Ross' appearance on " The Tyra Banks Show."


"I think it's important for all children with albinism to know they are beautiful. They're not any different than anyone else. ... I always wanted to start something like this just because, growing up, I know that I would love to have had someone who's older around that had albinism ... just to motivate me and that would understand some of the things that I was going through and help me through them." — Diandra Forrest

Models like Winnie, Shaun, and Diandra are showing the world that the things that make us different also make us beautiful and that's something all of us could stand to remember.

You don't need vitiligo or albinism to appreciate what these incredible models have been able to achieve. Sadly, too many of us have dealt with bullying or being made to feel less than because we're different. But the real beauty is in recognizing that we are all unique and that our differences are worth embracing and celebrating.

Thank goodness there are role models like Winnie, Shaun, and Diandra out there to remind us how important it is to work whatever it is you've got.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.