Model Shaun Ross is no stranger to the hot lights and high pressure of the catwalk.
Year after year, the world’s top fashion designers have selected him to slay their runway with the season's finest haute couture apparel.
But this fall the Bronx native swapped roles and revealed his new clothing collection, “In My Skin I Win,” a collaboration with Munich based fashion designer Nina Athanasiou.
“In My Skin I Win,” features Ross’s face manifested in different angular patterns on trendy jackets, pantsuits and dresses.
Although the collection started out a passion project between the creative minds of Athanasiou and Ross, "In My Skin I Win" symbolizes the culmination of strength and self-empowerment for a 24-year-old whose presence has now quite literally been stamped on the world of contemporary modeling.
As one of the first and most successful fashion models with Albinism, Shaun’s confidence and fearlessness has paved the way for other aspiring models to walk their walk no matter what skin they’re in.
He officially embarked on this design campaign after a mother of a daughter with Albinism reached out to him to see if he could pass along some encouraging words to her.
Shaun spoke with NBCBLK contributor Alex Titus for a few minutes after his design debut.
NBCBLK: Congrats on your new collaboration with Nina Athanasiou, “In My Skin I Win.” Your presentation was phenomenal and authentic. How did it feel to receive such a warm reception from industry spectators and friends?
Shaun Ross: I always saw myself as a work of art but never as a collaborative designer. Designers spend so much time and energy preparing for the big day and I feel like I didn't do nearly as much as they would have. When Nina and I started this collection, I was scared of what people would think but to see everyone being amazed by what they saw. I honestly was so excited and I absolutely loved the way it turned out.
Were you apprehensive when Nina initially mentioned the concept of having your image repeatedly duplicated on your shirts?
Absolutely! At first, I didn’t think this concept was quite humbling. Why would I want to put anything out with my face all over it? It didn’t make sense at first, but then I rationalized it like this: there are several successful collaborations that have used their own images to create art. This could maybe give people the confidence to do what they want say to the world, "this is who I am".
You’ve recently landed the covers of four magazine all around the same time: Nylon, Astonish, LaCanvas and Divo. Did you ever imagine as a kid that you would become one of the most sought out after models images plastered on the covers of such huge publications?
To be honest not really because standard beauty is what we are taught. I am not considered what’s seen as the standard model, but after working so hard and seeing a change in the industry, the opportunities grew larger. To me, my face on those covers is an absolute dream come true.
You tweeted, “I remember when this was all just a fragment of my imagination. The thought it being obtained was unimaginable.” When did you first realize that you could live out your dreams to become one of the world most well renowed fashion models?
I'm not sure when I first noticed but I can say that recently I definitely see more clearly now. My vision is less blurry than it was before. I am thankful for what I have accomplished and am becoming more and more amazed when I see everyday life.
You credit your family for instilling confidence in you when you were younger.
My family always made me comfortable with how I looked. I didn’t know having Albinism was a thing. It wasn’t until we would be in public and people would react. But I naturally came to a place where I stopped feeding negative vibes. Everyone isn’t going to like me for me even though I’ve always felt like me.
Not too long ago, you wrote an article for PEOPLE Magazine taking a stand against the injustices towards Tanzanian Refugees. Tell us about your efforts in spreading awareness.
I've always had the opportunity to live a free life here in America where people can harm you, but it's not common in such a way. I have walked the street freely and I feel like anyone else such as a person with albinism should be able to do the same. It kills me to know that someone is dying for the color of their skin and it's not even a racial standpoint but for the belief of others when it comes to rich or poor.
You’re approaching 10 years in this industry, what are two of your greatest moments and what goals would you like to achieve in the next 10 years?
I think two of my greatest moments in this industry was my first flight out of the country to Paris and working with Beyonce. In the next 10 years I would love to obtain world domination like Brain from “Pinky and the Brain”, hahaha!
That’s the spirit! Are there any magazines that you would like to model for or any fashion designers that you would love to work with that you haven’t collaborated with already?
I would love to do a cover of I-D Magazine. I’m not really sure why it has not happened but I would love to wink for them one day on a cover.
How has dancing played a role in your success as a model?
I have been a dancer for many years and I love it because when you are a dancer you learn to move in front of an audience so it makes it easy to move fluidly in front of a camera. I was discovered years ago on 10 by my dancing videos on YouTube. That’s partially how I entered modeling, someone who saw those clips suggested that I do enter the industry.
From the start of your career, you’ve always been well connected on the social scene and have great relationship with the who’s who of entertainment. How does it feel to gain so much support from huge industry titans?
It's very cool because when you meet these people such as Beyonce. You grow to learn that they are regular humans with regular flaws. I love that about her and she’s very humble. A lot of people will never be able to differentiate a celebrity or artist’s talent from their everyday personality or personal life. So to be in this space where I’ve received so much support from individuals who are so talented is beyond rewarding.
[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity]