By MarthaHewett @MarthaHewett

A BRITISH teenager with albinism is following her dreams of becoming a model, despite being called an ‘inside out Oreo

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Videographer / director: Marcus Cooper
Producer: Martha Hewett, Ruby Coote
Editor: Pete Ansell 

 

Kimberley Leech, 15, from Derby, was born with Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 1 – affecting the colouring of her skin, hair and eyes.

Despite this, Kim is making a name for herself in the modelling world after being signed by Zebedee management, and has even appeared in an edition of Vogue Italia.

Kim told Barcroft TV: “I think it’s important for everyone to accept themselves – I want albinism to be portrayed in a good light through the media.”

When Kim was a baby, she appeared on television show GMTV appealing for a ‘Forever Home’ – which is when her adoptive mother Debra, first saw her.

Debra had already two biological children with albinism and after a process with social services, she adopted Kim just before her first birthday.

Debra said: “I already had Jonathan who has albinism and had a good foundation of knowledge of what it meant and how it would affect Kim.”

Kim’s brother Jonathan, 17, and younger sister Harriet, 11, both have Oculocutaneous Type 2, meaning they have some skin pigmentation, unlike Kim.

With very fair skin, Kim is at greater risk for skin damage and has to be incredibly mindful in ensuring she is protected from the sun – even in cloudy weather.

With reduced vision; Kim suffers from nystagmus - a condition in the eyes which makes repetitive and uncontrolled movements.

“If I’m emotional, upset, frustrated or tired my nystagmus kicks in and my eyes wobble a lot.” 

Due to a lack of depth perception in her eyesight, Kim also needs a white cane to keep her safe when walking in unfamiliar places.

She explained: “My white cane helps me know how many steps to go down without falling down any of them.”

Being a teenager and using a white cane wasn’t always easy: “I felt insecure using my cane, I was afraid of judgement.

“It used to affect my confidence, now I’m not really bothered.”

However, Debra believes Kim’s condition affects her more than she likes to admit.

“As a teen, Kim’s looks are completely different, and her body shape is completely different – which she has struggled with quite a lot.

“For a teenager going out carrying a white cane, it’s another example of her standing out and looking different.”

Despite support from her friends at school, Kim has experienced nasty comments, particularly when it comes down to the subject of race.

She explains: “I do look Caucasian and most people don’t know what to say because of how different I look.”

“When people say I’m not black, it makes me feel – I don’t know what the word is, because I know I am black.

“It’s a lack of education really.”

Kim has even been accused of being white but trying to act black: “They call me an inside-out Oreo. It used to affect my confidence, but now my confidence has grown a lot.”

This is partly due to Kim embarking on a modelling career. 

After being signed by Zebedee Management last summer, Kim has already built an impressive portfolio.

“I always wanted to model, but it was the fact that I have albinism and I can empower people by being an ambassador.”

Kim has already been a part of a number of fashion shoots, but it was being photographed by Sophie Mayanne for Vogue Italia’s ‘Fantagirl: I Am the Woman I Am’ series that has been the highlight to date.

“I’m really lucky that was one of my first jobs and I’ve created a good and sturdy platform for myself.”

Since then, a range of national newspapers have covered Kim’s modelling journey including ITV and BBC.

She hopes this is just the beginning and wants to continue educating society on albinism whilst showing it’s ok for those who look different to follow their dreams.

“Many people who have a condition are not comfortable in themselves. I want this film to show that despite my disability, I have accomplished something great in my life.”