Joanné Dion: The Black Model Accused Of Having White Privilege

Joanné Dion, a Black model with albinism, a condition that affects the amount of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes, is opening up about her struggle to feel accepted by both Black and white communities.
The plus-size model has worked for both Missguided (she recently starred in its body-positive #InYourOwnSkin campaign) and Sunday London, but tells Refinery29 she’s been accused of having white privilege because of her skin color. “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,” she explained. “Black people naturally assume that I have white privilege, which is definitely not the case.”


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Dion also reveals that she was bullied for her condition growing up. “It mostly consisted of harsh words such as 'ghost,' 'powder,' 'Shrek,' and many more,” she says. In some instances, Dion says things even got physical. She was pushed, locked in closets, and her belongings were thrown into a toilet. “I don’t believe teachers did enough to support me, but I’m so fortunate to have my family,” she says, adding that she believes the bullying led her to begin to harm herself. “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,” she notes. “I did this so that anything anyone else said wouldn't beat what I’d already said about myself. That was my coping mechanism.”

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.

Now, after what she calls “a very hard journey,” Dion is more comfortable in her own skin. “It took a really devastating experience for me to realize that I'm more than my condition. While this journey didn’t start positively, I got to where I am because of it.” She also notes that she now 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,” she says, adding she doesn’t have much to prove. “I am who I am, so I can’t waste time by trying to get people to like me. I am Black.”
She credits her growth to her Christian faith and the realization it's “our soul,” and not external appearances, that really matters. And even though she is able to have a successful career now as a model, thanks to her unique appearance, she knows there is more to life than looks.


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“As a child I noticed that difference wasn't celebrated and I honestly thought I couldn't become a model,” she says. 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 envision what you haven’t seen before, so I made it happen. After seeing Shaun Ross and Diandra Forrest, I realized that I, too, could become an inspiration for the growing generation, especially within the plus-size community.”

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