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‘Being different is good’: the teen model making fashion more inclusive

Upon finding an abandoned baby on the ground outside, the orphanage staff in China named her Xue Li. ‘Xue‘means snow, and’At‘means beautiful.

Adopted at the age of three by a family in the Netherlands, her mother kept the name, thinking it was a poignant reference to her daughter’s pale skin and Chinese roots.

Now 16-year-old Xueli Abbing’s name is making itself known around the world, as a model who has been featured in Vogue, but also as an inspiring representative of the albino community.

Abbing may never know for sure why she was left at the orphanage, but many in China view albinism, a rare genetic condition that causes a lack of pigment in the eyes, skin, and hair, as a curse.

When it comes to modeling, Abbing has found her difference more than a blessing: She is represented by the Zebedee Talent agency, which aims to make people with disabilities more visible in the world of fashion.

“I want to help people see that being different is good, and definitely not a curse, as they believe in countries like Tanzania and Malawi,” Abbing said. “Some companies try to include models that are different, but sometimes for the wrong reason, because they want to say: ‘Hey, look at us, we are also including people with differences or people of different color.’

But Abbing welcomes what she sees as a shift toward people who want to learn and accept differences. “Also speak directly to people with differences, ask them questions and listen to what they have to say,” he urged.

I want to help people see that being different is good, and it is definitely not a curse.

When not in front of the camera, Abbing loves to climb and swim, and he used to be a competitive judo player. It is important for her to focus on what is possible, rather than what is not. (His albinism means that he only has 8-10% vision and it hurts to look at the light directly.)

“In school, teachers tend to look at the things you can’t do. I really didn’t like that, even though they meant well. I know I have vision problems. I would rather they had focused on the things I can do. “

She loves the world of travel and meeting new people, which her modeling has opened up, and in particular working with artists and on art projects. The outfit she wore for this photo, for example, is made from dandelion seeds by Dutch floral designer Conny van der Westerlaken. “This really inspires me. His creations are incredible, ”said Abbing.

The teenager also pours her creativity into crochet artwork. “Because I see the world from a different angle, my artwork turns out a little different too,” he said.

Image: Rob Jansen. Floral design: Conny van der Westerlaken; hair: Marije Helder; makeup: Didi Izendoorn


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