We asked model Shaun Ross to be a part of What’s Underneath because he held onto who he was despite the struggles of growing up gay in an all-black school as an African American with white skin due to albinism, as well as having an extra muscle tissue in his nose. It was a lot to deal with, Shaun confirms. But the 24/7 sunglasses of his earlier years have come off, along with his “cocky ass confidence,” and his need for superficial acceptance can now be summed up by: “I don’t give a fuck.”
Elisa + Lily
"I used to wear sunglasses all of the time. I thought it was cool to walk into the club at 1 o’clock in the morning with a pair of shades. In reality, the only reason why I was wearing sunglasses was because I was insecure, you can’t look somebody straight in the eyes. In the beginning, I was this cocky-ass ‘oh-I’m-so-confident,’ but I was just hiding an insecurity. I don’t have the most perfect nose. I’d ask my parents, 'Can we get an operation to get my nose fixed?' I used to wear sunglasses to cover that up. But now I'm like, ‘Who gives a fuck?’…. In a school of 300 mixed-race but all dark kids, I was considered the "Caucasian" kid, and I’m not even Caucasian. I’m black. Kids used to come up to me in school, grab my arm, and go, ‘Wow, it’s so cool, you’re like a chameleon.’ It made me feel diseased…. I let people know: you think that you have it hard, I had it very hard. I had to explain to people why I wasn’t black and why I was black. I had to do double the work…. I was black, I had albinism, I was gay, I was open. Oooh child, it is definitely a lot. But I didn't lose myself…. Growing up, my mom wouldn’t let me hang out with the kids in the area because they were ratchet. My grandfather lived on top of us and he had two rooms filled with junk. I would put on my grandma’s old hats and pearls and call to my grandpa, ‘Come in, the show’s about to start.’…. People look at life as practice, like, ‘I’m going to fuck up a little bit and then get it right.’ But why go through the chase and the games?… Sometimes, you have to go backwards in order to go forward — you have to say, ‘Bitch, remember who you are; remember what you worked hard for; remember what you put out into this world.’"
Follow Shaun on Twitter: @ShaundRoss
Follow him on Instagram: @shaundross
Shaun's video was edited by Andrea Cruz
The What's Underneath Project is produced by Elisa, Lily, & Mona