5-Year-Old Who Used to Be Embarrassed of His Albinism Is Now a Model for Fashion Brand

April 16, 2019 Updated: April 22, 2019

Five-year-old Elijah Enwerem, from Willenhall, West Midlands, isn’t your typical kid. In between going to school and playing with friends, he also does some modeling and has been featured by some U.K. brands—pretty impressive for someone of his age. Enwerem also has albinism, a rare genetic disorder that affects approximately one in 18,000 to 20,000 people in the United States, or in some parts of the world, one in 3,000.

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The disorder is characterized by a complete or partial lack of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes, and is usually passed down when both parents carry the recessive gene. Although according to his parents, they had no idea they were carriers. “As far as we are aware no one in our immediate family has ever had the condition,” Enwerem’s mother, Lucy Dawes, told Bored Panda.

In society, there’s a lack of awareness about people with albinism, which can often lead to ostracization and bullying. In some African countries such as Tanzania and Burundi, people with albinism still face the threat of violence due to the false belief that their body parts can be used to cure various ailments.

But Dawes knows how lucky her son is. “He was born here in the UK to a loving and supportive family. Others with albinism are not so lucky,” she shared. “The stigma that people with albinism suffer in other countries is frightening.”

Posted by Lucy Dawes on Monday, May 1, 2017

This uniqueness hasn’t been lost on Enwerem. From an early age, he recognized he was different.

Dawes told Metro, “He was always asking why he looked different and why people would stare and point at him.” But she reassured him that the only reason people stared was that he was special.

“I wanted him to understand that the reason everyone does that is because he is so remarkable,” she said.

So remarkable, in fact, that Primark, a high-street fashion label in the United Kingdom, thought he was perfect for one of their campaigns. But Enwerem’s big break didn’t come from a chance meeting with an agent or an audition. It was born in an unlikely place: a vegan Facebook group.

“I posted the picture and lots of people said, “aren’t they cute?” but one lady said: ‘I hope you don’t mind me saying this but I think your little boy could be a model.’ I told her lots of people say that, but she was serious and she told me to look for a modeling group on Facebook.” And that just what Dawes did. Soon after, the little tyke got signed to Zebedee Management, and after a few small jobs, Primark came calling.

The campaign that featured Enwerem launched earlier this year. Since then, the 5-year-old has been walking around with an extra spring in his step.

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Posted by Lucy Dawes on Saturday, February 16, 2019

Dawes shared: “When he walked into Primark and saw himself on the wall, it was like mission accomplished. He gets it now and his confidence over the last year has grown phenomenally. He has gone from hiding from people and growling at them to happily speaking to people.”

Dawes also mentioned that the little boy really loves modeling. “He loves the adventures and I think the attention when he is being photographed—it’s wonderful to watch him in front of the camera because he is so natural, he looks so comfortable,” she added.

Although he still gets stared at sometimes, he now uses the attention to promote the message of acceptance and kindness.

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“He is the most compassionate child I have ever met,” Dawes said.

Thanks to Enwerem and other models like him with albinism such as Diandra Forrest and Leo Jonah, the stigma against people with albinism may soon slowly fade.

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