Albino woman who was bullied at school for her looks gets the best revenge by becoming a model
Kids can often be cruel with what they say to one another, especially if they encounter somebody who looks or sounds different to them. Joanne Dion, a 21-year-old student from London, is all too familiar with this, as she grew up with albinism - a rare condition that causes an absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes - and was frequently bullied for her appearance.
"The bullying started pretty much in pre-school and from as young as I can remember it always happened, but I wasn't necessarily insecure in myself," Dion said.
"I remember being a very strong and confident child, but my confidence was challenged was when other people's opinions started clashing with my own. I couldn't see why they perceived me in a negative way and I hated myself for that very reason. I dealt with that in a negative way for the most part of my journey; I suffered from anxiety and depression."
At her lowest point, the student considered ending her own life.
"I remember, and still feel it sometimes, when I used to cry myself to sleep and wishing not to wake up so that I don't have to go to school the next day," she said. "When I was with my family, it was the best time, so I guess that's why although at times I used to cry myself to sleep so hard and wished that I died, having that love in my family made me feel happier."
Some of the worst bullying that Dion suffered was due to her partial-sightedness, as a common characteristic of albinism is vision defects. She always needed a support worker to help her at school, and got picked on for it. On some occasions, older children would physically push her around or pull her hair but - according to Dion - not even the teachers intervened.
Because of what she's been through, the young model is keen to show schools the importance of self-awareness and self-acceptance, as she believes it will teach children to embrace others' differences.
"This needs to be a compulsory lesson in schools because knowing who you are and informing people of who they are really does help," she said.
"In secondary school, I thought that for me to be accepted, I needed to be accepted by the popular kids so that that way, I'll be protected because everyone looks up to them.
"I was still getting bullied in high school, but until year nine other things were going on in my life that were more severe than my condition of albinism and the way people treated me.
"I had time to discover myself, I got through those dark times when I self-harmed, I then realised 'you are a person, you're way more than what you thought you were' and I guess that was the revelation."
And things began to change even more for Dion when a photographer noticed her while she was out shopping.
"I was in Forever 21 and this photographer asked to take pictures of me ... He was like 'can I take a picture of you' and I was like 'ok cool'. From there people started to notice me," she said. "People started asking to work with me to the point that I was starting to get a bit more momentum and I felt confident enough to start modelling. It just took off from there."
And now life is totally different.
"It's humbled me - it has changed me but in a great way. I had the opportunity to work with brands that I admire."
Dion knows that her career path isn't forever, too, but she aims to impact people while she is in the public eye right now. And, from what we've seen so far, it looks like she'll do an excellent job.