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Winnie Harlow Partners with The Sims to Launch Vitiligo Skin Feature

Winnie Harlow Partners with The Sims to Launch Vitiligo Skin Feature

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Screen grab of Winnie Harlow with vitiligo in The Sims 4

Supermodels and video games may not be an everyday combination, but this February, it was a match made in virtual heaven when Winnie Harlow and The Sims partnered to bring vitiligo representation—and customizable skin features—to the best-selling video game.

The Sims is a series of life simulation video games and is one of the best-selling video game series of all time. And the latest update to the game—The Sims 4—brings vitiligo to the game as a customizable skin feature. This means that for the first time, Sims players living with vitiligo can see their avatars reflect their vitiligo skin in the game. (Hello, representation!)

The Sims announced this release in partnership with Winnie Harlow, along with a virtual version of the supermodel’s Hollywood-inspired dream home. Players can not only download Harlow’s home from the game’s gallery, but can now even play the game as a Winnie-inspired Sim.

While it’s not the first video game to offer avatars with vitiligo, The Sims 4 news marks a significant bump in visibility for vitiligo thanks to the widespread popularity of the game (it had over 70 million players worldwide as of April 2023), not to mention Harlow’s prestige as a nearly universally recognizable supermodel and inspiration for those living with vitiligo. 

“This partnership is a powerful statement,” said Harlow, according to Radio Times. “…encouraging players to embrace what makes them unique—both in-game and in real life.”

And for Harlow, the collaboration is personal as The Sims was a part of her childhood.

“This is something that my younger self would honestly cry about because the changes that I’ve seen in the world of representation in my lifetime have been insane,” said Harlow in an interview with Refinery29, calling it “magical” to see vitiligo represented in a game she played often as a child. “To be a part of this launch has been just so rewarding. To be able to think back to my younger self and kind of talk to her in my head.” 

According to PC Gamer, Sims players had already been creating custom vitiligo content for themselves—even before the launch of The Sims 4—which affirms that this is an update players have been wanting for a long time. Now there’s an official option to display your Sim character with vitiligo, found under the “skin details” section of the character creator—no coding knowledge required.

In the game, players can select the body parts they want to show vitiligo, such as face, torso, arms or legs. The update also offers multiple pattern variations, so users can choose the pattern that’s closest to their unique vitiligo patches. Staying true to the vitiligo experience, Sims players can even choose how their vitiligo changes—or doesn’t—over time (wouldn’t that be nice IRL?!). 

Sims developers said they hope to work on programming depigmented vitiligo hair for the game in the future, and emphasized that adding vitiligo skin is just one step in an ongoing goal of increasing inclusivity in the game.

It’s a worthy goal. Veteran gamers note that many video game developers haven’t prioritized diversity or inclusion in character creation. And while some gamers may relish the chance to style their characters fantastically, those who want their in-game characters to reflect their real-world appearance also deserve the option to do that.

As Harlow told Glamour UK, “There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be inclusivity. If we can have so much inclusivity in real life, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have it in fantasy.”

We couldn’t agree more, Winnie.

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