Dave Rodney, Contributor
USA: A ravishingly beautiful Jamaican 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. Her name 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 beauty and fashion industries where flawlessness is nurtured and celebrated. She suffers from a rare 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 Micheal 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 percent 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 dehumanizing that I wanted to kill myself", she disclosed.
Chantelle's mom, Lisa Brown who lives near Toronto but who has roots in Trelawny and Clarendon in Jamaica told the Gleaner 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.