When Yvesmark Chery went to college to become an IT professional, he didn't expect to end up as a model instead. But after an ex-girlfriend signed him up for a casting on a whim, the 23-year-old took the opportunity and turned it into so much more than just posing in front of a camera. As someone with vitiligo, a skin condition where pigment is lost from patches of skin on the face and body, Chery feels that his flourishing career as a model stands for something powerful. "I want other people to look at me and be like, 'If he can do it, I can do it," he tells Refinery29 during a phone interview.
This mindset makes Chery's new gig with Youth To The People that much more meaningful. The skin-care brand tapped Chery, along with four other empowering figures (like 63-year-old model Gillean McLeod and indigenous rights activist Haatepah Clearbear), for its SKINCARE FOR ALL campaign. The advocacy initiative includes a film that highlights each of their individual voices, continuing the company's work of spreading an impactful message beyond the surface of skin care, as with last year's Beautiful People and Good To The People projects.
Chery says that he was grateful and humbled when he got the call to form part of this diverse group — as he is with every opportunity that comes his way. He didn't always embrace his differences; it wasn't until college, he says, that he learned to love the skin at the forefront of this campaign. In addition to the support of his five siblings, Chery says that he adopted three guiding points to live by growing up. "There are three things that keep me going: my religious beliefs, the support of my friends and family, and my goals," he says. "I don't have time to listen to the naysayers, the negative comments, or the stares."
That's not to say that the negative comments no longer happen: Chery still experiences things like people calling his skin a "costume" on Halloween, or even facing discrimination while shopping for groceries. "There are instances where I'm handing money to a cashier, and they don't want to make contact with my hands and tell me to put the money on the table," he says. In those moments, Chery chooses to educate rather than get upset or angry — which isn't always easy. "I have to take a step back and educate people instead of being mad. Sometimes, people just don't know," he says. "I'm trying to educate as many people as I can with this platform. There's work to be done, always."
This campaign is also a natural fit for Chery, who says he's found self-love in skin care since he was a kid, especially as he's had to be mindful of which products he uses with his skin condition. "Modelling isn't the path that I wanted to take at first, but I just so happened to go this route, and I'm enjoying every second of it," he says. "Just being able to be something and be a representative of people with vitiligo means the possibilities are limitless."