(Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images)
It seems like every time you turn around these days, there’s a new Twitter or Instagram hashtag promoting one movement or another. I’m not knocking them—what’s great about these is that they’re often started by relatively unknown people, and they spread like wildfire throughout our fair Interwebs until they actually have an impact. Honestly, it’s a pretty great way to bring light to any given cause. It’s not as often, though, that you see a real, limelight-washed role model starting a hashtag of his own (unless you count Kylie Jenner‘s recent anti-bullying hashtag, that is). That’s where Shaun Ross comes in with his new Instagram hashtag, #InMySkinIWin. Haven’t heard of it? Welp, you’re missing out.
First things first: Some of you out there might not know who Shaun Ross is. I’m actually relatively ashamed to admit that I didn’t know who he was until very recently, when Jillian and I saw him at the Betsey Johnson S/S 2016 runway show (#oops). Quick bio: Shaun is the first African American albino male model in fashion history, has modeled for fashion giants like Alexander McQueen and Givenchy, has starred in Katy Perry and Beyonce music videos, and is just an all-around standout human being. He’s also taken up the mantle of becoming an important role model, especially for albinos and those with skin conditions that cause them to become the target of bullying and harassment, because yes, in case you haven’t noticed, we still live in a world where people are attacked for the way their skin looks. And this goes way beyond color, too.
So, how does this all connect to #InMySkinIWin? Well, it all happened in response to one mother of a child with albinism who reached out to Shaun for advice. Shaun wanted to do more than just help in this one instance, so he created the In My Skin I Win movement. On its official website, he wrote,
“[Our] mission is not to stop bullying entirely, but rather to shape the way we as individuals think about ourselves personally. If one feels confident when looking in the mirror, then the negative words of others don’t sting as much. In My Skin I Win is a movement for anyone who has ever felt defeated by a negative social construct of what beauty actually should be. Beauty is you and what you make from your confidence in your own perfectly imperfect body. Together, if we encourage others to love what they see when they look at themselves, we can win in our skin.”
There are some pretty awesome things in this selection from the movement’s mission statement. The fact that they acknowledge that they cannot stop bullying altogether somehow makes me appreciate it more, because it both acknowledges that the harassment is a real problem, while recognizing that they (and we) are only human, and we are limited in what we can do—all we can do is make strides and try to enact change. What’s more, the mission statement doesn’t limit itself. It reaches out to all the people who have ever “felt defeated by a negative social construct of what beauty should actually be.” This includes anyone who has ever felt cut down by the airbrushed photos of models in magazines, been told that they can’t wear certain things or look a certain way, or have just generally felt brought down by the fashion industry and society as a whole. There’s not a person on this planet who hasn’t felt that way before, making this a true movement for the masses.
The existence of the movement alone would be exciting enough, but it’s already taking off, especially on Instagram, where people are posting photos of themselves celebrating their looks with the hashtag #InMySkinIWin. Take a look:
It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, black or white, man or woman—this movement seeks to encourage self-acceptance and to acknowledge that fact that, no matter your perceived imperfections or differences from what society deems normal and acceptable, you are beautiful, and you deserve to know just how beautiful you are. If that’s not something we can all get behind, then I don’t know what is.