Kiara Ray, 16, is a student at Gorton High School in Yonkers.
She loves to sing and write poetry, plays piano and guitar, and has always had an interest in acting.
Kiara has Albinism, a pigment disorder due to a defect of melanin production that results in a lack of natural color in her skin and hair. She is the daughter of a Jamaican father and a bi-racial mother, who is African American and Italian, yet Kiara has fair skin and blonde hair.
Because of the disorder, she is legally blind but has functional vision, so she uses special magnifying tools and has other accommodations, like large-print text books, in her classes at Gorton High.
The lack of pigment also makes her susceptible to sun damage, so she covers her skin and wears shades when she goes outside.
Kiara told me she is often mistaken for being Caucasian, and when she was younger, she felt self-conscious about looking different than other kids. That used to hold her back from pursuing things she loved—but her experience this fall performing in the off-Broadway musical “We Are!” with the Gospel for Teens program in Harlem was transformational.
The performance consists of young actors narrating real-life stories depicting the struggles teens experience in every day life while the teen gospel choir showcases the healing power of music. Through song, dance and words, Kiara personified her own journey, playing the role of Delilah, a teen with Albinism.
“It was really amazing just to be accepted and put into the play,” she said. “I didn’t think I would be entrusted to represent anybody else. It was really cool to just … realize that I could do anything I wanted.”
Here’s Kiara talking about Albinism and her role in the musical: