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WATCH: ABC News Report On African American Albino Model Diandra Forrest

ARTICLES AND BOOKS BY WRITER BEN AROGUNDADE

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She's Black, With White Skin, Green Eyes And Natural Blonde Hair: Meet Albino Model Diandra Forrest

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A BEAUTY APART: African American albino fashion model Diandra Forrest is a force of nature. She was teased as a child for her unconventional beauty, but then modelling came calling. Approximately one person in 17,000 is born with albinism, while albino black people are even more rare.

DIANDRA FORREST IS UNIQUE amongst models. Her albinisim sets her apart, while posing questions about ethnicity and race. Is fashion really ready to accept beauty as diverse as hers? By Ben Arogundade.

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SHE’S WHITE, AND YET BLACK. Her hair is naturally blonde, her skin and facial hair are milk white, her eyes are green, and her lips and nose are distinctly African. She is Diandra Forrest, albinism’s role model, and the most startling supermodel of our time.

She was born in the Bronx, New York City, on October 22, 1989, to African American parents. She is not the only albino in the family — of her three siblings she also has a brother with the same condition.

ALBINO NATION
The term “albino” comes from word “albus” — the Latin word for “white”. Approximately one person in 17,000 is born with the condition, a rare genetic disorder characterised by a loss of pigment in the skin, hair and sometimes the eyes. Albino people lack melanin, the substance responsible for natural hair and skin colour. The condition affects people of all ethnicities globally.

As an albino child Diandra did not initially feel different from her darker-skinned African American family members. It only dawned on her when other children began to ask if she was adopted. As an African American albino growing up within a predominantly black neighbourhood and school in which most of the inhabitants had dark skin, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be problems. There was name-calling and ridiculing from certain children — “white girl”, and “Casper”, were two Diandra remembers. “I used to come home in tears,” she told the BBC. “Growing up you get teased, and some people grow out of things, but you can’t grow out of being an albino,” she confessed in an ABC News interview.

Diandra became so traumatised by these incidents that her parents took her out of school and moved her to the New York Institute For Special Education, where she mixed with other children with albinism.

MODEL BIOGRAPHY
Things began to turn when, as she grew up, her life began to mirror that of the classic tale of the ugly duckling that becomes a swan. Young Diandra, once derided for her looks, was now being stopped regularly on the streets and subways of New York by strangers mesmerised by her beauty. One day while out shopping on 34th street, a young photographer, Shameer Khan, scouted her. “You’re beautiful, you should model,” he stated matter-of-factly.

After working on some test shots for two months, Diandra joined Elite Models NY. It was the first time an albino model had ever signed to a major model agency. Suddenly, the fact that she was different became her calling card. “I like that I am not a cookie cutter girl” she said.

DIANDRA DARES
Since then Diandra has become a regular fixture at fashion shows, and has worked for clients such as MAC and Vivienne Westwood. Simultaneously she has become a spokesmodel for other albinos, after learning of their mistreatment, particularly in East Africa, where local superstitions mean that many live in fear of abduction and mutilation. She works with an organization in Tanzania called Assisting Children in Need (ACN), fighting discrimination against the country’s albino community.

But despite Diandra’s groundbreaking success, and her positive position as a role model for other albino people, black and white, so far it is mainly the avant-garde fashion designers and magazines that have used her — her look being too out there for the mainstream. Will she ever get the call up from Vogue? It seems unlikely, although she may find herself a dead cert for the next Hollywood sci-fi movie.

Ben Arogundade's book BLACK BEAUTY is out now.

THE BOLD BEAUTY of African American albino model Diandra Forrest. “I think it’s been well overdue for us to be looked at as the unique beauties that we are,” she says. “A lot of the time in the entertainment business, people with albinism have been portrayed as something supernatural or odd or freakish looking and I love that we are being seen in a different light.”

*MODEL DIANDRA FORREST AND ALBINO PEOPLE ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH

390

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase “Sexy albino” each month.

4,400

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase “Albino model” each month.

12,000

The number of people worldwide who Google Diandra Forrest's name each month.

22,200

The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase “Albino black people” each month.

*All figures for “Model Diandra Forrest And Albino People According To Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.

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