When she was baby, Xueli Abbing’s parents left her on the floor outside an orphanage in China, a country where albinism is considered by many to be a curse. Now she is a successful model despite having faced all kinds of difficulties.
Albinism is a rare genetic condition that causes a lack of pigment, which makes Xueli’s skin and hair very light and also extremely sensitive to sunlight. However, what makes her different has also driven her modeling career. At the age of 16, she has already appeared on the cover of Vogue and has participated in campaigns for some of the biggest designers in the world.
At the time I was born, the government in China imposed a policy of only one child per family. You were extremely unlucky if you had a child with albinismXueli Abbing
It was the orphanage staff that gave her the name. In Chinese, “xue” means snow and “li” means beautiful. When she was three years old, Xueli was adopted by a family in the Netherlands, where she went to live. Her new mother wanted to keep her name, which she believes fits her perfectly. At the same time, it was also a way of keeping a reference to her Chinese origins.
Her biological parents didn’t leave any information about her when they left her at the door of the orphanage, so Xueli didn’t know exactly how old she was. About a year ago, she was given an X-ray of her hand to give her a better idea of when she was born. The doctors concluded that she must have been about 15 years old, as her family believed.
In some African countries albinos are persecuted, their limbs may be cut off, or they are even killed. Xueli believes that, given what happens in certain places in the world, she was lucky to have just been abandoned.
People with disabilities are increasingly in the media and that’s great, but it should be normal. Models with albinism are recurrently stereotyped in photo shoots to represent angels or ghosts and that makes me sadXueli Abbing
Her modeling career began by chance, at age 11, thanks to a Hong Kong designer who was a good friend of her adoptive mother’s. The woman had a son with a cleft lip, so she wanted to design nice clothes for him so people wouldn’t focus on his mouth. The campaign was called ‘imperfections imperfect’.
Thereafter Xueli started receiving invitations to do photo shoots and was eventually sought out by the Zebedee Talent agency, which represents people with disabilities in the fashion industry. Meanwhile, she ended up in Italian “Vogue” in June 2019. Her goal is to use her career as a platform to raise awareness about albinism.
Her story serves as an inspiration to so many who have suffered from prejudice throughout their lives for being different. At the same time, it is also a sign of hope that shows how the fashion industry is moving in a more inclusive direction.