Marc Jacobs has made a “big statement” with his latest ad, as the brand’s Instagram post puts it. Although the phrase refers to the “little bag” featured in the photo — from the Marc Jacobs Snapshot purse line — it’s hard to overlook the double-entendre.
The photo is a waist-down shot of two models with long legs — and one of the models has the skin condition vitiligo.
“Look at this Marc Jacobs ad!! Omg, loving it!!” one fan commented on the post. Another wrote, “Love the unique and beautiful models.” The post currently has more than 14,000 likes and hundreds of enthusiastic comments.
“Vitiligo is a disorder in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body,” according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “This happens because the cells that make pigment (color) in the skin are destroyed.”
The American Academy of Dermatology notes that the condition — which is not contagious or life-threatening but can be life-altering — most often occurs on the skin. That said, it can manifest wherever there is pigment, including hair and eyes.
Women with vitiligo have been having a moment in the fashion world in recent years. Model Winnie Harlow made a splash as a contestant on the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2014 after being discovered by host Tyra Banks on Instagram. Though Harlow didn’t win the competition, she’s gone on to pose, unretouched, for brands including Desigual and Diesel.
In July, Breanne Rice — a model who’d secretly lived with vitiligo — revealed her skin condition after hiding it for 10 years. Rice’s vitiligo was diagnosed at age 19, but she was already a working model and couldn’t accept the reality of it.
According to the Daily Mail, the 32-year-old began covering her face in a thick layer of foundation to even out her skin tone before she left the house, whether she was working or not. The process took 45 minutes each morning.
Coming clean — literally — helped Rice build up her self-esteem. Now she’s focused on being a nutritional therapist, as she strongly feels her condition can be treated by consuming the right foods. She told the Daily Mail of her condition: “I had to work on eating right, and now I eat a lot of fresh vegetables and organic foods. I will stick to my new diet, as it could trigger my condition. I don’t have cheat days. I also found out stress triggers the vitiligo so to relieve this I do hot yoga and meditation.”
After years of hiding his condition in shame and avoiding dating, Darius Vernon, a 30-year-old London man with vitiligo, became a model. With his chiseled body and rugged good looks, it’s easy to not even notice the discoloration, mostly on his hands and around his mouth. “I spent years hating myself and the way I looked because of the ignorance of other people — but now I’m proud of who I am,” Vernon said in an interview.
Showing himself off instead of hiding has helped Vernon develop the confidence to approach women, and he hopes his confidence will inspire others with vitiligo.
You can say that models with vitiligo truly went mainstream in February, when Gap Kids featured a child model with the condition in ads posted in store windows. The kid model with the confident, sassy pose is 11-year-old April Star, who posed for Gap’s new “Fearless Beauty” campaign, in partnership with Disney for its release of Beauty and the Beast. In an Instagram video for the brand, the adorable model admits to having taken “4.3 million selfies” and feels that “confidence is courage.”
Jamie Kern Lima, the co-founder and CEO of IT Cosmetics, went on Facebook to share her enthusiasm over Gap’s model choice, writing, “I just passed these windows, and Gap‘s main model for Gap kids is this gorgeous little girl with vitiligo. Seeing this beautiful girl makes me SO happy! If you’re like me with rosacea or this beautiful girl with vitiligo or maybe you have perfect skin, at IT we believe every woman and every person is beautiful! You can start a cosmetics company. You can model for a huge company like Gap. You can do anything you put your heart and mind to! Love you IT girls!!!! Xoxo Jamie.”
Marc Jacobs’ latest ad and Instagram post aren’t the first times he’s embraced models with vitiligo. In February, he walked model Harlow down his NYFW runway. Harlow, it should be noted, was also embraced by none other than Beyoncé, who cast the 5-foot-10 stunner in her Lemonade visual album. And let’s face it: If you’ve made it into a Beyoncé video, you’ve made it — period.
And in the ultimate mashup moment, Harlow and child model April met while both vitiligo models appeared on “The Real.” Harlow has been an inspiration for April for years. The two — along with the show host Adrienne Bailon — were in tears from moment one. “I see the little girl that I could have been at her age,” says a deeply moved Harlow. “The confidence I have now — I had none when I was her age.”
As vitiligo becomes increasingly represented by major fashion brands and groundbreakers like Harlow, more children living with the skin condition — like Star — will think nothing of letting their unique beauty shine. Inclusivity will simply become second nature.
So, the question remains: Who is that model in the new Marc Jacobs MJ Snapshots Bags ad? It hasn’t been confirmed, but those gloriously patterned kneecaps look uncannily like those of the glamorous Harlow herself. Look above. Look below. Then you decide.
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