Vitiligo means that I lose the pigment that colours and protects my skin. When I was first diagnosed I had a lot of questions from friends. Strangers stared, and I worried they would think I’d been in a fight. I started to wear specialist make-up to try and cover up my skin. I hid behind it, I wasn’t very confident.
It began as a small patch on my chest and under my eye when I was 15, although back then I did not know what it was. As silly as it sounds, I thought I was not washing myself properly and didn’t tell my parents.
It wasn’t until I was parading around the sitting room with my top off in the epic British summer time heat of 22 degrees that my Gran noticed and before you knew it, off to the doctors we went. After various consultations and treatments, I made the decision to cover it up with make-up provided by the British Red Cross.
To be honest, I was too afraid to show my vitiligo off as a teenager, especially as it was very visible around my eye. I’d given in to society’s view of perfection and deemed myself unworthy of being myself. I remember feeling anxious, and afraid of what others would think, being called names is something I wanted to avoid at all costs.
It took me seven years to embrace my vitiligo. I was staying at my friend’s flat and forgot to pack my makeup – my heart literally sank. I did not want to go to work, fearing people’s comments or what they might think.
After some words of encouragement from my friend, I plucked up the courage to go in but felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. Weirdly, it was not as bad as I thought it would be, although a few initial questions were raised, everyone accepted me for who I was. That was the day I became the real me again, and I chose not to wear my make up again.
I am so proud to be an ambassador for a number of years now for Changing Faces, which has enabled me to help and empower others struggling with their visible differences, like vitiligo.
More people know me as @thevitiligoman on Instagram now! I think that it’s important to create a community of acceptance on social media to encourage and support others. More brands and businesses should be embracing diversity; they should reflect who their customers really are.
If I could go back and talk to my teenage self I would say: don’t let your vitiligo define your insecurities, let it define your confidence.