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Girl who was abandoned by parents for her looks wants to prove the world wrong—now she models for Vogue


It is important to have parents around during childhood as it provides a sense of safety. Growing up without parental presence or being abandoned by them can lead to feelings of resentment.

Xueli Abbing, a 16-year-old from China, was abandoned at birth and left at an orphanage. Her parents’ identity is unknown. The staff at the orphanage named her “Xue Li,” which means “snow beautiful” because she was born with albinism.

Albinism is a genetic condition that results in low levels of melanin, leading to pale skin, hair, and eyes.


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At the age of 11, a designer in Hong Kong invited Abbing, who had been adopted by a loving family in the Netherlands, to model for a photoshoot showcasing different types of beauty. The designer named the campaign “perfect imperfections” and also invited Abbing to participate in a fashion show in Hong Kong. Abbing described the experience as “amazing.”

“She called the campaign ‘perfect imperfections’ and asked if I wanted to join her fashion show in Hong Kong,” Abbing said in an interview to the BBC. “That was an amazing experience,” she added.

Discrimination against people with albinism is prevalent in different parts of the world, and some even believe that their bones possess healing properties, leading to their persecution. Abbing, a person with albinism, considers herself fortunate for only being abandoned. Even models with albinism can be used as props to depict supernatural beings, which makes Abbing sad. “I’m lucky I was only abandoned,” Abbing has said.


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Nevertheless, Abbing had the opportunity to work with a photographer who treated her like any other model, resulting in a stunning photoshoot. In fact, one of the photos from the shoot was even sold to Vogue Italia for their June 2019 issue. “At the time, I didn’t know what an important magazine it was and it took me a while to realize why people got so excited about it,” recalls.

Abbing, who has 8 to 10% vision, faces challenges as a model because looking directly at camera flashes is painful for her. Despite this, she wants to represent people who are not conventionally beautiful. She believes that featuring people with disabilities or differences in the media should be normalized, and not seen as something extraordinary.

In an interview, Abbing expressed that because she cannot see everything properly, she focuses more on people’s voices and what they have to say. To her, inner beauty is more important than physical appearance.


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Abbing is determined to use modeling as a means to raise awareness about albinism and educate people that it’s a genetic disorder and not a curse. She believes that using the correct terminology is important, such as referring to someone as “a person with albinism” rather than “an albino” which can sound defining. She also stated that she refuses to accept the fact that children are being killed because of their albinism and wants to make a difference in the world.

Let us know your thoughts about Abbing and her journey to inspire and educate people around the world.