Xueli Abbing was born in China with a rare genetic condition, albinism, and was left outside an orphanage by her parents. She was three years old when a Dutch family adopted her.
Today, Xueli Abbing is a 16-year-old model and a symbol of hope for many people.
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Albinism causes a lack of pigment that makes a person’s hair and skin extremely pale and leaves them sensitive to light. It can also hinder their eyesight. The condition is viewed as a curse in China.
Xueli has only 8-10% vision in her eyes with pale skin and hair.
Speaking to the BBC, Xueli said, “I consider myself lucky that I was only abandoned,” referring to the worse fates many children with albinism have to endure sometimes.
“At the time I was born, the Chinese government enforced a one-child policy on families,” she said. “You were extremely unlucky if you had a child with albinism. Some children, like me, were abandoned by their parents, others were locked away, or if they did go to school, their hair was colored black.”
The staff at the orphanage named her. “Xue means snow, and Li means beautiful,” she said. “When I was adopted, I went to live with my mother and sister in the Netherlands.”
Speaking about how her modeling career started, She said, “My mother knew a designer whose son had a cleft lip. The designer desired to make nice clothes for his son so that people did not stare only at his mouth. My mother asked me if I wanted to be part of that campaign. Later, I was approached by talent agencies.”
In June of 2019, she appeared on the pages of Vogue Italy. Xueli wants children with albinism to know they can lead successful lives.
“People with disabilities are featured more in the media, which is great, but we should normalize it. Models with albinism often get stereotyped in shows to depict angels or ghosts, and it makes me sad,” Xueli said.
Further on, she said, “I want other children with albinism or any other disability to know they can do anything they want. People might discourage us that we can’t do things, but we can just try.”
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