Ava Clarke & Shala Edney Tell Us Why Albinism Is The ‘Perfect Flaw’

Ages: 8 and 41

Location: Mississippi

Occupations: Student, actor and model; radiation safety officer


On celebrating beauty…

Ava: Beauty is accepting your unique self…and being happy with the way God made you.

Shala: My daughter Ava is wise beyond her eight years. We’ve done lots of research together on albinism. We have always told Ava that she was born different to make a difference in the world. By definition albinism is a flaw because the DNA strand does not create enough melanin. I would categorize albinism as the perfect “flaw.”

On shaking off the critics…

Shala: I worry about Ava feeling comfortable around her peers and finding friends in school. I worry about her features being “too White” for African-American groups and “too Black” for Caucasians. People point and stare all the time. Over the years I’ve learned that most of them are simply curious.

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Ava: When I’m with my friends, I feel like a regular girl who’s just like them. I believe God made me different so I can make a change in others.

On self-acceptance and embracing our differences…

Ava: Even though I have a different skin and hair color, I’m proud of who I am and how I look.

Shala: Find strength and peace in knowing you can’t change your skin color or your eyes or people’s curious gazes. We are all created for a purpose. We are all beautiful.

See more “Eye of the Beholder” stories in the January 2017 issue of ESSENCE!