An 11 year old London, Ont. girl is helping to change the face of beauty, one picture at a time. Ava Bright has a condition called vitiligo that results in skin cells attacking each other and destroying the pigment. It can leave the skin looking blotchy as some portions have pigment and others don't.
Bright's parents first noticed a small spot on her back when Ava was four. But her mother, Julie Brown, said it spread quickly.
By the time Ava was six or seven it was quite noticeable. She was bullied at school and commented on by members of the public.
"We went through all the stages," said Brown on CBC's Afternoon Drive. "She would come home crying daily. Kids would tease her. People stare constantly to this day. They say rude things to me or to her."
Brown remembers her daughter coming home from school, lying on her back, on her bed, with her legs on the wall and scratching them.
"She hated how they looked," said Brown. "It was pretty crushing. I felt like a failure. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to help her. I wanted to make sure she wasn't broke, she didn't need fixing, she was perfect the way she is."
Changing the face of beauty
Then her mother saw a Facebook post from a clothing company looking for pictures of children who looked 'different'. Brown didn't respond to the post. Instead she contacted the company directly and sent them a picture of Ava.
"They responded within an hour and we were in New York three weeks later," said Brown.
But, Ava's parents didn't immediately tell her about the trip. In fact, they sat her down just minutes before they were to leave.
"My mom told me I got a modelling job. I started crying, of happiness of course," said Ava. "Modelling was always one of my dreams. I want to be a role model for other kids who might see my pictures and be like, that's so cool, I should do that."
Ava was photographed for a back to school promotion by Matilda Jane Clothing. She models dresses and short-sleeve shirts. Her vitiligo is visible and that's more than okay with Ava.
"Now I love my vitiligo," said Ava. "It [the photo shoot] felt really good because I like making a difference in the world. I like showing people who I am, not covering up my vitiligo."
Ava credits her parents and others with vitiligo for helping her become a stronger person.
"I had to take time to find myself and figure out who I am," she said about the journey from crying everyday after school to feeling confident about herself.
She still doesn't like it when people point at her or stare, especially when she's wearing a bathing suit.
But, the bullying at school has stopped.
Now Ava encourages other people to love who they are.
"What you really have to think about is would you rather live life depressed and hate how you look or would you rather live life happy?" she asked. "You only live life once so you might as well live it at your best.".