Winnie Harlow Among Those Crediting Social Media For Changing Perceptions, But Others Say A Lot Of Groups Are Still Being Left Out

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The standards of beauty are changing in the fashion world, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

This year, one major runway show is showcasing the new faces of fashion.

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Backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show models prepare for one of the biggest nights in their careers. Hundreds audition, but only a few earn their wings.

One of them, 24-year-old Winnie Harlow, is walking for the first time.

“I am so excited!” Harlow told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge on Thursday.

Winnie Harlow

Winnie Harlow prepares backstage during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on Nov. 8, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret)

Harlow is changing the face of beauty. She has been very outspoken about her skin condition, vitiligo. As a teen she was often bullied for how she looks, but she refused to hide. Thanks to Instagram, she was discovered by America’s Next Top Model. Now she’s on her way to supermodel status.

“I think it’s amazing today that you can see so many different people, sizes, shapes represented,” Harlow said.

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Harlow said social media was crucial in helping her break into the fashion industry, adding it continues to help change the concept of beauty.

“The amount of messages that I have received from little girls who were like, ‘I have short hair … I have dark skin … it’s so great to see you up there on the runway’ … It makes me want to do better on the runway,” model Herieth Paul said.

But many critics say the fashion industry still pushes an image of perfection that’s unrealistic, and transgender model Leyna Bloom says it still leaves a lot of groups out.

“Why is it taking so long? I’m the first openly trans model to be in Vogue, since 1960’s,” Bloom said.

Designers are trying. For example, this year’s new Fashion Week featured more casting of color, genders, abilities, shapes and sizes. Also, showing up on magazines, billboards and online clothing websites are the same outfits being worn by different-sized models.

Plus-sized model Bernadett Vajda said she believes diversity is slowly becoming a staple, not just a seasonal trend.

“I heard a little rumor that Victoria’s Secret is casting full-figured models,” Vajda said. “There is a shift. There is momentum. It takes time for an institution a company to change. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Vajda said while it may be two steps forward and one step back, at least the industry is moving in the right direction.

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Fashion experts told CBS2 a more diverse runway actually boosts retail sales because people buy more when their favorite styles look more like them.