My albinism means I only have eight to 10 per cent vision and I can’t look directly at light as it hurts my eyes. Sometimes if it’s too bright on a shoot I will say “May I close my eyes or can you make the light softer?” Or I’ll say “OK, you can do three pictures with my eyes open with the flash and no more.”
At first they might think it’s hard but when they take the first picture they are like “Wow” and they are really happy with the results. My management say to clients “If you can’t arrange that you can’t have Xueli.” It’s important to them that I feel comfortable.
People tell me my visual impairment gives me a different perspective and I see details that others do not observe. It also makes me care less about the traditional view of beauty. Maybe because I cannot see everything properly I focus more on people’s voices and what they have to say. So their inner beauty is more important to me.
I love modelling because I like meeting new people, practising my English and seeing that people are happy with my pictures. I want to use modelling to talk about albinism and say it’s a genetic disorder, it’s not a curse. The way to talk about it is to say “a person with albinism” because being “an albino” sounds as if it defines who you are.
People say to me that I have to accept things in my past but I think that’s not the case. I believe you need to see what’s happened and understand why but not accept it. I’m not going to accept that children are being murdered because of their albinism. I want to change the world.
I want other children with albinism – or any form of disability or difference – to know they can do and be anything they want. For me, I’m different in some ways but the same in others. I love sport and climbing and I can do it as well as anyone else. People might say you can’t do things but you can, just try.
Xue Li (Vogue Model)