Why fit in when you can stand out? That’s the philosophy that 11-year-old vitiligo model Ava Bright subscribes to – and it shows. Just this summer, Ava had the chance to model for Matilda Jane Clothing as part of the brand’s back-to-school collection.
Julie Brown, Ava’s mother, stumbled across Matilda Jane’s call for models on Facebook and immediately shot off an email to the clothing brand.
“They responded within the hour,” said Julie, who lives in Ontario, Canada, with Ava and the rest of their family. “It all happened so fast and we were in New York a month later for the photo shoot. We didn’t tell Ava until the night we left for New York. She was so excited.”
Featured on both the Matilda Jane website and the brand’s social media, Ava, who has vitiligo on almost every part of her body, can be seen running through a field, playing with other girls and wearing a bookbag.
“Ava loves her photos,” said Julie. “It was a definitely an extra confidence boost for her, and she loves being a role model for young girls with vitiligo.”
Matilda Jane partnered with Changing the Face of Beauty, a nonprofit advocating for inclusive imagery in media and advertising, to recruit a diverse range of models for the shoot.
“It’s so important to us to make sure every girl and every woman feels confident and beautiful,” said Emily Richwine, Brand Marketing Manager for Matilda Jane. “We truly want every little girl to be able to see herself in Matilda Jane.”
The brand isn’t unfamiliar with vitiligo, either.
“I’ve had vitiligo since I was 9 years old,” said Madeline Katzel, Vice President of Design for Matilda Jane. “For the longest time, I thought I was the only one. I am, of course, so proud to work for a company that would use a model with this condition, and I hope it lets little girls growing up with vitiligo today see that they aren’t alone.”
Not long after the Matilda Jane photos were released, Ava was signed to Anita Norris Models as the agency’s first model with vitiligo. It’s another confidence boost for the mini-model – but she wasn’t always this confident in her skin.
Ava got vitiligo when she was four. It wasn’t until three years later that she started to feel self-conscious about it. Kids started asking questions and not soon after, teasing and tears became a daily event – until her mom teamed up with the school to put an end to it. A trip to visit White-Eyed Rowdy, the Instagram-famous dog with vitiligo, only boosted her self-esteem.
“That experience changed our lives,” said Julie, who keeps Ava involved with vitiligo support groups today. “Ava and Rowdy were on Inside Edition and Sports Net ESPN, and there were numerous articles written about the experience.
Just this week, Ava had her own first day of school – as a newly-minted seventh grader.
“Just be yourself,” said Ava. “Everyone has beauty in their own way and it’s what’s on the inside that matters anyway.”
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.