Shining Bright: 7-Year-Old Brazilian Boy with Rare Skin Condition Becomes International Model

A 7-year-old Brazilian boy has found a way to embrace his skin and at the same time be an advocate for diversity: he has achieved a career as an international model.

Samuel Silva, from Bahia, was born with a rare genetic skin condition known as piebaldism. The benign condition causes a melanin deficiency, resulting in white patches on the skin and hair.

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Samuel Silva with his mother, Nivianei de Jesus Purifiçao. (Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)

“Samuel draws a lot of attention in public, like when he is shirtless on the beach and you can see the white marks all over his body,” said Samuel’s uncle, Julio Sánchez-Velo, 53, according to the Daily . Mail.

“Strangers will come up and ask all kinds of ignorant questions, as if Samuel had been burned in an accident,” he continued. “Everyone is used to it and simply explains what piebaldism is”.

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Samuel with two of his cousins, who also have piebaldism. (Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)

However, Samuel is not the only one with this rare condition in his family. His mother, grandmother, several uncles and cousins also have similar marks.

Samuel’s mother, Nivianei de Jesus Purifiçao, 41, always knew he was different. Her own mother, Doña Dionisia, 65, was once forced to cover the pale areas of her skin with long sleeves and pants, but Nivianei was determined to gain the confidence to show off her marks.

“She wore short skirts and blouses when she wanted,” Julio recalled. “They gave him the nickname ‘Free Willy’, after the movie about the orca that had white markings, but he accepted the name and said it with pride.”

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Samuel with his uncle Julio Sánchez-Velo. (Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)

Still, Nivianei, a nail technician who earned the respect of everyone in the community, hoped that Samuel, like her first daughter, Andreia, would be born without piebaldism to avoid having to deal with comments and stares.

According to MDedge Dermatology, fewer than 1 in 20,000 babies are born with piebaldism. Samuel’s family in general, Julio said, has never been officially diagnosed. However, doctors “didn’t pay much attention” to Samuel’s condition because he was otherwise a normal, healthy child.

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Samuel with his cousin, Rihana. (Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)

In the past, Samuel’s parents briefly shaved his head to avoid drawing unwanted attention to the marks in his hair, but they soon changed tactics. They grew Samuel’s incredible afro and encouraged their son to love himself because of his unique appearance, and not despite it.

In February 2019, Samuel’s parents started an Instagram page for their son and Samuel became a hit. To date, the page has amassed more than 32,000 followers.

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(Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)

Child modeling agency Sugar Kids found out about the boy and contacted the family in April 2019. Since then, the striking Brazilian boy has been featured in Junior Style London, Bazaar Kids and Dixie Magazine. She has also walked at Toronto Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week and London Children’s Fashion Week, and the world has become her oyster.

Samuel, who refers to the markings on his skin and hair as “beautiful spots,” is “very artistic and loves to walk the runway and pose for photographs,” according to Julio. “He really thrives. …He loves being the center of attention and traveling.”

“She has become the face of acceptance and inclusion in the children’s fashion industry,” Julio added.

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(Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)
""(Courtesy"
(Courtesy of Supermodel SAMUEL SILVA)

Julio considered that, coming from a poor community in Brazil, Samuel might not have had many opportunities to see the world if it weren’t for modeling.

Samuel’s entire family hopes to empower all children to feel confident in themselves. “Being different is not something we should hide,” said Julio. “We have to accept it, just like Samuel.”

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