Xueli Abbing: The story of an abandoned baby who became a Vogue model
The story of Xueli Abbing is quite remarkable. When she was just a baby, she was abandoned by her parents, being left outside an orphanage. The reason for this is because she suffers from albinism which is perceived as a bad omen in China. Albinism is a rare genetic condition that causes a lack of pigment and in this case makes Xueli’s skin and hair very pale. The condition also makes her extremely sensitive to sunlight.
Xueli Abbing managed to use her look to propel a modelling career. At the relatively young age of sixteen, she has featured in Vogue publications and led campaigns for top designers.
Her name was given by the orphanage staff. Xue means snow, whilst Li translates to beautiful. She was adopted at the age of three, following which she went to live in the Netherlands with her mother and sister. She is fortunate to have been abandoned, in the sense that children with albinism were at times locked away. To fit in at schools, their hair would be dyed black. Even worse, in places such as Africa, people with albinism were hunted, maimed and sometimes killed. Witch doctors would use their bones for the purpose of medicine, to cure diseases based on myths.
She started off in modelling at the age of eleven. She joined a fashion show in Hong Kong themed “perfect imperfections”. She defines it as an “amazing experience”. Following this experience, she was invited for a number of photo shoots. One of which was for Brock Elbank, taking place at his London studio. She was then approached by the Zebedee Talent modelling agency to join them in their mission to get people who had disabilities well represented in the fashion industry.
One of the pictures that Brock Elbank took, was published in Vogue Italia’s June 2019 edition with Lana del Rey on the cover.
She refers to her look as a blessing and emphasises that through modelling she can raise awareness in relation to albinism. She earmarks the Kurt Geiger campaign as a great opportunity for her to have expressed herself.
Xueli Abbing expresses her concern that models with albinism are stereotyped and get to feature as angels or ghosts. Such stereotypes and beliefs endanger these people on a societal level. She also speaks very profoundly about the dangers one may face because of albinism, with some children across certain parts of the world being murdered.