Joanné Dion: The Black Model Accused Of White Privilege

A post shared by JOANNE DION (@joannedion_) on

A black model with albinism, a condition that affects the amount of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, has revealed her struggle to feel accepted by both black and white communities.
Joanné Dion, who has worked as a plus-size model for brands including Missguided and Sunday London, has been accused of having white privilege because of her skin colour and was bullied for her condition growing up.
"My parents are black so technically I should be black," she said in a short film on the BBC. "There's a lot of confusion [over] where I fit in society because my skin is very fair and pale and white. But I am of black descent and I am a black person. Black people naturally assume that I have white privilege, which is definitely not the case."
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Speaking to Refinery29 UK about her experience of race, she said she doesn't feel the need to engage with people who don't believe she is black. "I know the difference between someone who wants to be informed and those who are ignorant. I don’t have much to prove, because I am who I am, so I can’t waste time by trying to get people to like me. I am black."

I don’t have much to prove, because I am who I am, so I can’t waste time by trying to get people to like me. I am black.

Dion, who appeared in Missguided's recent body-positive #InYourOwnSkin campaign, said she has been bullied for her condition for as long as she can remember. "It mostly consisted of harsh words such as 'ghost', 'powder', 'Shrek' and many more. On some occasions the bullying was physical – I'd be pushed, locked in a dark fruit closet and my belongings thrown in the toilet. I don’t believe teachers did enough to support me but I’m so fortunate to have my family."
The bullying led her to self-harm and self-loathing, she said. "I hated myself. Not because of how I looked but because I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I'd always put myself down – I did this so that anything anyone else said wouldn't beat what I’d already said about myself. That was my coping mechanism."
Nowadays, following what she describes as "a very hard journey," Dion is more comfortable in her own skin. "It took a really devastating experience for me to realise that I'm more than my condition. While this journey didn’t start positively, I got to where I am because of it."
She credits her growth to her Christian faith and the realisation that it's "our soul" and not external appearances that really matters. But despite knowing there's more to life than her looks, she is now a successful model.
"As a child I noticed that difference wasn't celebrated and I honestly thought I couldn't become a model," she said. Teachers, friends and even some family tried to discourage her, but she doesn't hold it against them. "I don’t dispute their remarks – it’s hard to vision what you haven’t seen before, so I made it happen. After seeing Shaun Ross and Diandra Forrest I realised that I, too, could become an inspiration for the growing generation, especially within the plus-size community."
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