Born on October 22, 1989, in the vibrant metropolis of New York, Diandra Forrest immediately distinguished herself with distinctive features. From the start, the aspiring runway sensation showcased her unique attributes—light hair, fair skin, and captivating green eyes. Intriguingly, Diandra is not the only member of her family with albinism; her younger brother shares this distinctive trait, setting them apart from their other siblings.
When Diandra Forrest was 9 years old, she first became conscious of her albinism. Raised in a neighborhood mainly composed of African-American and Hispanic residents, she frequently experienced a sense of being different due to her unique attributes, such as light skin and hair. In addition to this, she grapples with nystagmus, a condition marked by involuntary back-and-forth eye movements.
Diandra Forrest encountered persistent challenges while navigating the streets, enduring continuous scrutiny and mockery. Reflecting on those tough experiences, she openly shared her journey: “People would call me ’Casper’ and ’Snow White,’ and say, ’Why are you so white? You look weird.’”
She faced relentless taunts, to the point where even her older brother was questioned about whether she was adopted by some kids. Whether at school or on public transport, Forrest experienced judgmental stares and laughter, creating a challenging environment that made it exceptionally difficult for her to establish connections and friendships during that time.
Diandra’s parents, unfamiliar with albinism, never discussed the topic with her. The stark contrast in skin tones between her dark-skinned father and older brother, both unaffected by albinism, led to curiosity and questions from those around them.
In response to the bullying she faced at school, Diandra’s parents decided to enroll her in the New York Institute for Special Education. Here, she discovered a supportive community of peers who shared her condition. As she navigated her teenage years, Diandra observed a change in people’s attitudes toward her. Strangers on the streets of New York frequently approached her, captivated by her unique appearance and eager to learn more about it.
Diandra Forrest first entered the modeling scene at the age of 14 after meeting designer Shannaine Eans. During a fashion show hosted by Eans, Diandra was introduced to a catwalk coach. The experience was nerve-wracking for her as the room was filled with beautiful girls confidently donning high heels. The coach observed the girls, provided constructive criticism, and offered valuable advice to enhance their runway skills.
As Forrest awaited her turn, the man failed to acknowledge her presence, intensifying her nervousness. Forrest patiently awaited her turn, but the man in charge paid her no attention, intensifying her nervousness. He took her friend aside and dismissively remarked, “’ Why is she even here? This girl will never make it in fashion. I don’t want to waste my time with her.’”
Shannaine Eans promptly intervened, ejecting him from the scene and declaring, “The class is over. How dare you!” Turning to Diandra, she offered words of encouragement, saying, “I want you to know that there are going to be people who don’t believe in you, but you need to believe in yourself. You’re beautiful, you’re strong, and you’re going to make it. Use this to drive you.”
During her college years, Diandra Forrest’s path took an unexpected turn when photographer Shameer Khan crossed her way. Enchanted by her beauty, he inquired about her thoughts on pursuing a modeling career. Embracing the fortuitous moment, Khan captured numerous photos of her and facilitated an introduction to Elite Models NY. This serendipitous encounter transpired in January, and by February, Forrest was already making her mark on the runways of European Fashion Week.
At the age of 18, Diandra began her formal foray into the world of modeling. Recalling that pivotal moment, she expressed, “I got signed to a big modeling agency my first time around. That was exciting for me because I wasn’t sure about everything. When agencies showed interest, it made me feel good. That coach was wrong. Agencies were very receptive, and clients were interested.”
Despite the achievements, she contended with unease during her travels and engagements in various campaigns and shows. Even when choosing a makeup-free aesthetic like her fellow models, she faced pressure to apply mascara, underscoring the persistent challenges of challenging traditional norms within the industry.
Diandra Forrest’s distinctive appearance caught the attention of renowned designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, V Files, and Ralph Rucci. Esteemed magazines, including Interview, Glamour, West End, OOB, and Portrait, dedicated articles to her, recognizing her unique presence in the fashion world. Diandra also collaborated with prominent musicians like Beyoncé, making appearances in their music videos. Her influence extended to television, where she graced Tyra Banks’ show and delivered a TEDx talk, sharing anecdotes from her upbringing in the Bronx.
In the summer of 2016, Forrest initiated and spearheaded the Beyond My Skin campaign. As a central component of this initiative, she participated in a short film aimed at providing deeper insights into the experiences of individuals with albinism. Explaining her motivation, Diandra expressed, “I wanted albino people to see a face for them, someone who can represent them. I wanted to give them a platform and a chance in a therapeutic way to express themselves, but also for the world to see and hear what they’ve been through. We’re human, we’re beautiful, and we need to be appreciated instead of nitpicked.”
Diandra holds an optimistic outlook on the changing landscape of beauty standards, confident that it is moving in a positive direction. She observes a favorable shift as an increasing number of models with diverse appearances come to the forefront, offering a more expansive array of role models. Expressing her enthusiasm, she notes, “And I think that’s great. With my albinism, I get so many messages from happy people [to see me]. People are becoming a lot more open-minded and tolerant and understanding, and just, overall, better.”
In addition to her successful modeling career, Forrest actively engages in philanthropy, particularly through her involvement in Assisting Children in Need in Tanzania. Through this initiative, she actively fights against discrimination targeting individuals with albinism in the country, leveraging her platform to create a meaningful impact and bring about positive change.
Diandra expressed gratitude for her unwavering support system, particularly highlighting the influence of her mother, who consistently reinforced the belief that she is beautiful regardless of any differences. She advocates for all parents to actively nurture and bolster their children’s self-esteem. Diandra emphasizes the importance of instilling confidence early on so that children don’t seek validation from external sources. She shared, “Uplift your children and give them self-esteem, so they’re not growing up looking for a compliment elsewhere. I plan on teaching Rain the same thing.”
With a robust Instagram following of 133,000, Diandra Forrest enjoys widespread positive feedback from her global audience. Actively interacting with her followers, she addresses a variety of inquiries, ranging from offering advice on explaining albinism to children and classmates to responding to questions about skincare. Beyond the confines of the runway, Diandra’s influence transcends, positioning her as a beacon of guidance and inspiration for those seeking understanding and connection.
Diandra Forrest was previously married to Forrest Renaissance. In 2015, the couple celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter named Rain. A few years later, their family grew with the arrival of a son named Rocky. Currently, Diandra is embracing the challenges and joys of motherhood while navigating the responsibilities of a single mom.