Winnie Harlow on Her Boundary Breaking Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Debut: 'I've Cried a Lot of Tears of Happiness'

Winnie Harlow is making history! For the first time ever, Victoria’s Secret is featuring a model with vitiligo, a condition that causes patches of pigmentation loss on the skin, on the runway at its annual fashion show. And Harlow can hardly contain her nerves – and excitement — for the new

“I have to admit, my nerves are a little bit higher than they usually are,” Harlow tells PEOPLE exclusively before she hits the catwalk on Thursday night. “I’ve cried a lot but mostly tears of happiness. This is the first major show I’ve done that will be broadcasted across the world on TV, which raises the stakes big time. But I’m more excited than anything else.”

So how has the first-timer been prepping for her big debut? Harlow actually took PEOPLE through her daily routine the week leading up to the big fashion show.

To calm any anxiety before the show, she took a little last-minute getaway to Miami with her girlfriends the weekend before the event, and when she returned to N.Y.C., she booked herself into a swanky hotel for total relaxation.

“I decided to book myself a three-night stay at the Four Seasons Downtown in N.Y.C. to get ready for the show. It’s so relaxing there,” she reveals.

But it wasn’t all comfy-cozy fun. She still had to stick to her strict workout routine and diet.

She jokes that she wishes her workout routine involved “staying in bed” because she’s really been amping up workouts before the show with her trainer, Mato Novak.

“I do a little cardio and weights everyday, while focusing even more on abs exercises before the big day,” she shares.

But what’s even worse than getting herself to the gym is sticking to a regimented diet. “It’s hell! I have to be really strict with what I’m eating– it’s nothing that I’m not used to, but I’m laser focused this time around,” she says. “There’s nothing but lean meats, healthy grains, and lots of greens and water.”

Another thing she’s been strict with is her overall wellness. “I tried for the first time acupuncture at the Juhi Center by Juhi Singh and did a few massages and facials as well.”

Even though her prep may have been grueling at times, she’s extremely appreciative of the barrier she’s helping break.

“It means the world to me,” the first-timer says. “Victoria’s Secret might be the biggest show there is because of how many people are able to watch it around the world, so to be a part of diversifying the Victoria’s Secret Angel landscape is a true honor that I’m so proud of.”

“Any step towards a truly equal and diverse modeling industry is great, but for a huge brand like Victoria’s Secret to include me as a model with vitiligo is a huge step to normalizing it in the entire industry,” she says. “I’m glad to be the first, but part of me is also sad that there weren’t any before me and I hope that there are many more in the future. We need to work towards diversity, not for the sake of it, but to make it the norm. And I hope this is a big step toward that.”

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