Last fall, when the issue of model diversity was finally on center stage, the Times ran a piece about Shaun Ross, a young, albino black model. Ross was fresh on the Fashion Week scene, appearing at Patrik Ervell, Tim Hamilton, and 3rd Fl. The article “showed people that being an albino isn’t weird,” said Ross, 17. But what it didn’t do was launch a career: This time around, Ross only booked one show — Odyn Vovk, which, ironically, in Ukranian means “One Wolf.”
Ross, who was born in the Bronx and goes to high school upstate, is not the first albino model. There’s Connie Shiu; recently Diandra Forrest was signed by Elite. But at the moment, he is the only male, in a milieu where Tyson Beckford has truly reigned and been considered the ideal for black male models. “People have so many perceptions of me,” says Ross. “There’s the futuristic robot or alien, or the God-sent child or something crazy. I’m immune to it.” Still, in a realm of a great deal of sameness seen on men’s runways, where blending appears the palate of the day, race and color aside, Ross just might still be too Other.
“I really didn’t stop getting teased until last year,” he says. People called him names, “the nastiest one being ‘Cum.’ Not just from kids, but adults too. My theme could be, ‘What is wrong with people today?’ That’s the question I ask myself almost every day.” His life of albinism has prepared him for the constant gaze, scrutiny, and often rejection that is the fashion world. And maybe next season they’ll be ready for him.