Christelle Mengue: Shining Bright
Having endured bullying about her appearance throughout her childhood, Christelle Mengue, from Sutton, is taking the modelling world by storm. She chats about her rise to stardom and being involved in Models of Diversity, which aims to end prejudice in fashion, beauty and media.
Growing up in France as a black African with albinism, Christelle Mengue found it difficult fitting in with both black and white communities – and had no role models to identify with. But after being spotted by a scout and becoming a model back in 2008, she’s fully embracing her differences and is a keen advocate of diversity. Which is why Christelle is excited to be part of charity Models of Diversity’s 10th anniversary calendar, raising awareness that beauty can be represented in the industry regardless of race, age, size and ability.
Tell us about your childhood.
Growing up with any type of condition isn’t easy for anyone. Throughout my childhood I was told that albinism was a sickness and this is what I believed. I had very few friends, nobody wanted to play with ‘the weird girl, and I had extremely low self-confidence as I felt rejected by both black and white communities. Which is why during my teenage years I decided to change my appearance such as dying my hair black. But it didn’t work as l still didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
When was the moment you decided that being ‘different’ is a good thing?
Despite the social exclusion, I was pretty much accepted in my own family – I have six dark-skinned brothers. After a few visits back to my birth country of Cameroon, I started discovering more about my identity, my culture and my family background. By connecting with my roots, it helped me find my place as an individual in society. I also discovered that having albinism didn’t mean I was handicapped, which was what I had been told so many times. It only affects the production of melanin, which makes my skin and hair colour look different. Getting into modelling also helped me to accept my differences.
Are you comfortable in your own skin now?
I feel more than comfortable. I feel confident, I feel empowered and unique. It’s taken me years but I am happy to say that I wouldn’t change my physical appearance for anything in the world!
How does it feel to be part of the calendar?
It feels amazing! I feel privileged and happy to be a part of something that is promoting diversity in the industry and featuring 11 other amazing women, all with their own stories to tell. And all the money raised will go back to supporting the MoD’s workshops for individuals with disabilities.
What do you love about living in Surrey?
I love Surrey because it’s so peaceful and not too far from London – but not too close, either. You also can’t go hungry in Sutton – I love my food! There are so many amazing restaurants in Sutton High Street that it’s impossible for me to choose. I love them all!
The MoD calendar costs £9.99 and is available to buy at modelsofdiversity.org/calendar/