Shaun Ross was giving his first TED Talk to a sold out audience at The Yard Theatre in Hackney, London. The male model has caused quite the stir since entering the fashion scene back in 2008. Judging purely on his résumé, Shaun Ross is a big deal. His dizzying rise as one of the most recognizable faces in fashion has been nothing short of impressive. Sure, his unique looks have something to do the notoriously fickle industry’s endorsement—Ross has albinism, a genetic condition that impairs normal pigmentation of the eyes, hair, and skin—but it’s his attitude that makes him a star. He’s playful, confident, and approachable in person, but when the camera’s on him, the room stops. He’s captivating; you’ve never met anyone quite like Shaun.
Ross has spent his entire life standing out. He grew up in the Bronx, where he was bullied for being different throughout grade school. Later on, Shaun was able to find his confidence through dance, where he excelled at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Company as a teenager. As his perception of himself began to change, the rest of the world took notice.
Shaun was discovered at 16 by a photographer on YouTube and signed with Djamee Models, a renowned international agency, soon thereafter. Since then, he’s graced the pages of top glossies like British GQ, Vogue Italia, i-D, and Another Man; appeared on America’s Next Top Model; and has been featured by major design houses like Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, and Givenchy. Shaun caught the acting bug after landing starring roles in high-profile music videos like Katy Perry’s E.T., Lana Del Ray’s short Tropico, and most notably, Beyonce’s Pretty Hurts, where he learned one of his most valuable lessons about the business. “Beyonce and her camp are all very kind people—they are all very warm and family oriented,” he says. “That’s something I’ve learned from her: just like to be very humble and kind.”
These days, Shaun’s focused on acting, as well as promoting his message of self-encouragement, a concept he’s deeply familiar with. Two years ago, he began the hashtag #InMySkinIWin, after being sent a photo of a young girl with albinism. He wanted her to feel beautiful, like he had learned to, and shared her photo with his thousands of followers. The hashtag began trending, and so did his somewhat subversive take on anti-bullying. “Forget the bullies, it takes a big person to talk away and know your true worth,” he says. “In My skin I Win is a movement that lets you know that instead of worrying about the bullies, it’s about you, so you’re not bothered by what they say. You can’t control what others do, but you can control what you do. You need to build from the inside.”
Dancing, fashion, acting, self-empowerment—whichever the vehicle, Shaun Ross’s MO is breaking pop-culture’s boundaries. Luckily for us, the progressive model now calls LA home, recently relocating to the Downtown hood and signing with NEXT Model Management after a lifetime in NYC. “I love Los Angeles. I think that LA is a great place right now; it reminds me of New York in the ‘80s—very innovative,” he says. “A lot of Parisian houses have come here, and a lot of shows are now taking place here: Tom Ford, DVF, Burberry… I think fashion is definitely migrating this way.” And Ross will be here leading the pack.
photography: We Are The Rhoads
model: Shaun Ross @ NEXT Model Management
stylist: Marissa Peden
stylist assistant: Brittny Moore
set design: Chloe Parks
grooming: Jenna Kristina @ Tomlinson Management Group
location: Mack Sennett Studios