An Albino Girl Who Was Abandoned as a Baby Grows Up to Be a Vogue Model
“Xue” means snow and “Li” means beautiful, a fitting name for this model with albinism. The name was given to her 16 years ago at an orphanage in China. Xueli is changing how the world sees albinism and provides a voice for those who look different from the unreachable beauty standards of the modeling industry.
Bright Side reached out to Xueli so that we could learn more about her life and work in hopes to inspire others.
Xueli’s path to success
Xueli had a difficult start in life. Albinism is still seen as a curse or bad luck in parts of China. And in addition to that, Xueli was born during the time of China’s one-child policy. She was abandoned outside of an orphanage as a baby but was later adopted at the age of 3 by a Dutch family.
Xueli started modeling at the age of 11 for a friend of her mother’s who was a fashion designer. This sparked the start of her career when she was approached by talent agencies.
Albinism, which is a genetic condition, involves varying degrees of vision issues. Xueli has approximately 8% to 10% of her vision. Because of this, she often closes her eyes during photoshoots. She states on her Instagram that this is “because the light is almost always too bright. When I do open my eyes, I mostly squeeze them...”
Xueli says that her “more negative experiences range from being abandoned as a baby to sometimes being excluded at school for being different.” She says that this experience “was, of course, very difficult, but it also made me stronger.”
Despite the critical modeling industry, Xueli has become widely successful. At just 16, she has already been featured in major publications, including Vogue. Her pictures have also been shown in museums, and she has modeled for a variety of fashion brands.
Maintaining self-love in a critical industry
We asked Xueli how she maintains her self-esteem in a critical industry like modeling, and she had this to say: “Although I am into modeling, this is not my purpose in life. I really enjoy the shoots and I only had positive experiences so far, but I do not want to depend on this work only or for self-esteem reasons.”
In other words, Xueli does not seek validation from the modeling industry, as her self-love comes from within. “The fashion industry is a critical industry with norms and standards hardly anyone can reach. It’s good that the industry is now embracing more diversity and showing models that are of all colors, maybe disabled, and not super skinny.”
Breaking down hurtful beauty standards
“Everyone is unique no matter what,” she says. She uses her platform to raise awareness for people with albinism and to promote representation. She states, “People with disabilities or that look different should also feel more confident about what they can do and achieve.”
Similarly, she doesn’t want her modeling career as an albino woman to fall prey to stereotypes. “Models with albinism often get stereotyped in shoots to depict angels or ghosts and it makes me sad. Especially because it perpetuates those beliefs that endanger the lives of children with albinism in countries such as Tanzania and Malawi.”
She wants the media to give a voice to those who have historically been voiceless. “The more people feel represented and the more society will learn to accept diversity, the more inclusive we will become.”
Xueli says that we as a society can become more inclusive and break down hurtful beauty standards by deciding “to buy or not to buy certain products, depending on how the companies are handling diversity. We shouldn’t try to set new standards but look at the beauty of each individual.”
How do you think we as a society can break down harmful beauty standards? Who would you like to see represented in the media?