Diandra Forrest is an African American model/actress born and raised in New York. As the first model with albinism to be signed to a major modeling agency, Diandra has been featured in multiple TV specials and magazine covers. As a humanitarian, Diandra’s focus is equality and tolerance for all.
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.
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 characterized 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 color. The condition affects people of all ethnicities globally.
As an albino child Diandra did not initially feel different from her darker-skinned family members. It only dawned on her when other children began to ask if she was adopted. As an albino growing up within a predominantly black neighborhood 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 traumatized 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 people with albinism.
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 mesmerized 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.
Since then Diandra has become a regular fixture at fashion shows, and has worked for clients such as MAC, Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier. Simultaneously she has become a spokesmodel for other albino black people, 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.
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