When her parents abandoned her, she vowed to show them how wrong they were…

When Xueli Abbing was a young child, her birth parents left her outside of an orphanage and vanished without a trace. Xueli was taken in by an adoptive family. Today, the young woman, who is just 16 years old, is a famous model who has a big dream: she wants to make the world a better place.

Xueli Abbing was one of the millions of children whose biological parents chose not to raise them as a result of China’s one-child policy, which remained in effect for more than three decades.

Abbing was born with albinism. Albinism is a genetic disorder that causes a reduced amount of pigment melanin — or no melanin at all — and can result in pale skin, hair, and eyes. The staff at the orphanage gave Abbing the names ‘Xue,’ which means snow, and ‘Li,’ which means beautiful.

Abbing was taken in by a family in the Netherlands when she was three years old, even though she had been through a lot before she was adopted. At age 11, a Hong Kong designer asked her to be in a photoshoot that was meant to show different kinds of beauty.

«She called the campaign «Perfect Imperfections,» and she asked me if I wanted to be in her fashion show in Hong Kong,» Abbing told the BBC. «That was a really cool thing to do.»

People who have albinism are often confronted with severe discrimination in many parts of the globe. Abbing said, «I’m fortunate because all that happened to me was that I was abandoned.»

Models with albinism also have to deal with stereotypes. In photoshoots and campaigns, they are often shown as angels or ghosts. In particular, Abbing told the BBC, «as it supports those myths that threaten the lives of children with albinism in nations like Tanzania and Malawi.  It makes me really sad.»

But Abbing was able to find a respectful photographer in London, and one of the photos was so good that Vogue Italia bought it for its June 2019 issue.

She said, «At the time, I didn’t know how important the magazine was, and it took me a while to figure out why everyone was so excited about it.»

Abbing has only 8 to 10% vision and can’t look directly at flashes because it hurts her eyes. This makes photoshoots very hard for her. But she still models because she likes showing a different kind of beauty than what is usually shown.

«There are still models who are like 8’2″ and skinny, but now there are more stories about people with disabilities or differences, which is great, but it should be the norm,» she told the BBC.

She also finds a good thing about not being able to see.

«Maybe I pay more attention to people’s voices and what they have to say because I can’t see everything well,» she said. «So I care more about how they look on the inside.»

Abbing is smart beyond her years, despite the fact that she is still just a teenager. She wants to use her platform to demonstrate to others that she is not limited by her condition.

She told the BBC, «I want to use modeling to speak about albinism and explain it’s a genetic disorder, not a curse. Since being «an albino» implies that you are defined by your albinism, it is preferable to refer to the subject as «a person with albinism.»

She went on to say, «I’m not going to tolerate the fact that children are being killed because of their albinism.»

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