Connie Chiu is a renowned international fashion model from Hong Kong whose features have destined her to forever portray an angelic or mythical figure.
As a person born with albinism, Chiu possesses a noticeably pale look due to the lack of pigmentation in her hair, eyes, and skin.
Recognized as the world’s first albino fashion model, Chiu began her career in fashion in the early 90s when she was 24 years old. Now in her late forties, she juggles modeling with her new passion: a jazz singing career.
Since her condition meant that her photosensitive eyes and skin must be protected from the sunlight, she would often wear sunglasses and use a parasol to ensure protection from the harmful rays.
As a child growing up in Kowloon, she recalled how her skin got burned multiple times by the sun during summer. When she was seven, her family moved to Sweden so she could escape the intensity of Hong Kong’s sun.
Having a rare condition that affects just an estimated one in 17,000 people worldwide, also meant she grew up looking different from the people around her. “I understood that I was different, but I didn’t feel upset about it,” she told Vice in an interview.
In Sweden, she saw how being different worked to her advantage. “I don’t think kids in Sweden dared to pick on me! I was really tall as a kid, about a head taller than most girls in my class. Plus I looked different and I dressed different. I was an untouchable package.”
She was first introduced to modeling at age 21 when her sister, a fashion student, asked her to become a model at one of her final shows. Chiu revealed that it was then she discovered that she was born to perform.
She eventually broke into the professional modeling scene a few years later after French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier responded positively to a black-and-white photograph of herself she sent him.
“I wrote my phone number on the back of a photo and sent it off to Jean Paul Gaultier. About four months later, he called my mum and said he wanted me to come do his couture show in Paris.”
Her illustrious career saw her gracing magazine covers and strutting the catwalk for major fashion labels. She also eventually did other projects such as music videos, most notably as an angel in Bonnie Tyler’s 1996 hit “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”.
Chiu recently revealed to South China Morning Post that she has, in her career, come across “resentful, bitter and lazy people professionally and socially – people who are stuck in the past and let it color their present and future”. However, she has decided to take a different approach, not letting such negativity affect her. “I decided long ago to make a different choice,” she added.
She recalled a moment from her childhood when her older sisters, still in their school uniforms, came home excitedly sharing that they came across another woman with albinism. ‘We saw a girl who looked just like you! Well, she’s a grown-up, but with white hair and fair skin just like you! And she was so tall and slim!” they exclaimed, beaming with smiles.
“For many years I thought that I had no role model. But now when I recall this moment in my childhood, it probably had a bigger impact on me than I ever realized,” Chiu shared. “From my sisters’ reactions, I got the impression that this Chinese woman with albinism that they happened to see was attractive, confident, and independent.”
“I think this stranger, this Chinese woman with albinism who I never actually met, brushed by my life and gave me an idea of what kind of life, and what sort of person I could be.”
Photos via Instagram / aneveningbreeze