Model with albinism makes her mark

HARARE - Rising model Lisa Winckelmans, born to a Zimbabwean mother and a Belgian father, believes she has what it takes to reach the lofty heights attained by internationally-acclaimed models with albinism like Shaun Ross and Diandra Forrest.

The 19 year old, who recently took part in the Brussels Fashion Week and the Ethno Tendance Fashion Weekend Brussels, is not willing to let a congenital disorder like albinism hold her back.

“I think I will be a top international model because of my determination. Not taking no for an answer has become a big part of me. I feel like I have something to offer the world,” said Winckelmans, whose mother Maureen Molly Phiri is a visual artist who owns an art gallery in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

Interestingly, the young model regards albinism as a positive attribute.

“I hope I can show people with albinism and their communities that it is something you can use to your advantage. It is a blessing to be different and I hope I can share that message with the world.

“Not only do I have albinism but I am also coloured and that is something unique on its own. At the moment I feel like the sky is the limit so I will see where I go from here,” a confident Winckelmans told the Daily News on Sunday.

The success the youngster is enjoying belies the fact that she became a model by accident.

“The truth is I never dreamt of being a model. I have always been good at school, so my dreams have been more about achieving academic success.

“What happened was that I was walking with my family and suddenly two amazing women walked towards me and my mum.

“They were the founding director of Ethno Tendance Fashion Week Brussels Cerina De Rosen and popular television and radio host Yvoire de Rosen. They talked about a fashion show and gave me a card and arranged a meeting the next morning,” she said.

Meeting the two women from Ethno Tendance Fashion Week Brussels fast-tracked Winckelmans’ entry into the world of professional modeling.

“It was a big achievement to suddenly get the chance to take part in the fashion week. The amount of exposure I got was amazing.

“Different photographers and directors from top magazines in Paris attended the event. I also got to wear a dress by the talented designer from Paris called Sara Roces-buelga,” said the young model.

Though the positives outweigh the negatives, Winckelmans’ modeling career has not been plain-sailing.

“Being told I was too fat was one of my lowest points. I think it was hard because every single model works hard on their appearance but it was a good lesson for me because I have learnt to put my foot on the ground and walk away when people say that. I am a European size 36 which is healthy for my height and I am not changing that for anyone.

“My role model is Gigi Hadid who promotes a healthy body image. She isn’t stick-thin and actually has hips and it gives me the strength to stay the way I am.  Because of her I know I don’t need to be a size 32 just to walk on the runway,” she said.

Despite being a recent arrival on the modeling scene, Winckelmans is determined to use the platform to inspire people living with albinism in Zimbabwe.

“I hope to inspire people with albinism and people with any disability in Zimbabwe. This is one of the reasons why I started my blog, not only do I want to share my story but I also want to inspire as many people as I can.

“I want use my modeling career to show them that I am just as good as everyone else. I have learnt that I should accept myself and believe in myself and by so doing I will make others follow suit,” she said.

The Antwerp-based model also revealed that the success she is enjoying on the runway won’t make her give up her studies.

“I am going to law school next year and I honestly hope I can balance everything. I feel like hard work always pays off. I just need to put in 100 percent. It will be hard but nothing is impossible. I also aspire to become a lawyer in the future,” said Winckelmans.

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