Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the 13-year-old with vitiligo determined to diversify runways all over the world

From art to fashion runways all over the world.

By Laura Masia

Candace Swan, 35, Port Augusta, SA.

The afternoon sun shone down on my daughter, Syriah, 13, while I painted.
I watched as the warm rays illuminated her skin, creating a beautiful pattern. Putting down my brush, I got my phone to take some pictures.
"Mu-um," she said, giggling with a hint of embarrassment.
"You look stunning!" I said.
As a mother of three to Syriah, Mahalia, 10, and Layne, five, I was always astounded by how beautiful all of my children were.
But Syriah was born with vitiligo, a condition that causes the loss of skin colour in patches all over her body.
With our Aboriginal heritage and beautifully unique skin, Syriah was striking.
Although a lot of young people with vitiligo struggle with confidence issues, Syriah took it in her stride, comfortable from the moment it started showing 
at four years old. It was inspiring.
The older she got, the more people told me 
I should get her involved in modelling but living in a small town, it wasn't easy.
As an artist myself, I knew how challenging it was to have a creative career.
Painting had always been 
a big part of my life and I'd been creating Aboriginal art since I was a child.
Me working on the pipeline. It was four days of hard work! (Image: Supplied)
Although I did it for fun, people were always asking me if my works were for sale.
One day, I decided to go for it, making a Facebook page to sell my creations.
I wanted to set up a legacy for my kids and help build them something for their future.
At first, I painted our designs on canvas but then I branched out 
to pot plants and cheese boards.
One day, I got an email from the Port Augusta City Council saying they were looking for artists to paint colourful art 
onto 30 metres of the water pipeline as an installation for SA Water's Reconciliation Action Plan.
Two other ladies and I raised our hands for the job and were selected instantly!
Her skin condition has never held her back. (Image: Supplied)
After settling on a design, 
it took four days to bring it 
to life, with lots of people coming along to add their hand prints.
Even the media showed up to support us!
When it was finished, we couldn't help but marvel at what we'd created.
"This is incredible, Mum," Syriah said, when she saw the finished product.
A few months later, I received a message from a woman named Ana.
I saw an article of the pipeline you painted and I'd love to chat to you about an opportunity, she wrote.
Interested, I contacted her and she explained she was the creator of London Pacific Fashion Week, an event where designers can launch their brands during London Fashion week.
"I want you to create a fashion line for a runway show," she said, explaining that we'd get to scout our own models too.
I was in shock.
Syriah is so excited for her modelling debut! (Image: Supplied)
We'd only ever painted canvases and objects.
Could we put our designs onto garments?
"You just painted a 30 metre pipe over four days in the cold!" Ana insisted. "The world is at your feet!"
Suddenly, I thought of Syriah's modelling aspirations.
What if this could get her started? I thought.Soon after, Ana connected with me on Facebook and came across the photos I'd taken of Syriah.
How would you feel about your daughter modelling in the show? she messaged.
Yes! I replied excitedly, that's her dream!
When I told my gorgeous girl that she'd be modelling for several designers during the course of the week, she cried with excitement.
"I can't believe it," she said.
Me and my beautiful daughter Syriah. I'm so proud of her. (Image: Supplied)
Now, we can't wait for Syriah's first modelling gig.
It's my daughter's dream to be the first Aboriginal teenager with vitiligo to walk a runway and I'm so proud 
of her.
Hopefully she'll be signed to an agency and her image will make a difference to girls, just like her, who've never seen people like them represented in the fashion industry.
Soon, she'll be strutting down the runway to show everyone that beauty comes in many forms.
If you'd like to help Syriah's modelling dreams come true, head to her GoFundMe.

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