Since 2011, the vitiligo community has been joining together globally to celebrate Vitiligo Awareness Month which aims to re-emphasise the importance of raising awareness and educate others about the challenges often faced by those with a visible difference. For many, it’s also a chance to celebrate their skin.
I developed vitiligo when I was three years old. It started as a small spot on the back of my hand no bigger than a five pence piece. I wasn’t diagnosed straight away because it was a relatively unknown condition when I was younger, it was only when more white patches rapidly started to appear all over my body that I was eventually diagnosed with vitiligo by a dermatologist. I was just four years old.
Growing up, vitiligo was often very challenging. My childhood years were by far the best because I was blissfully unaware that I was different. My teenage years were my worst because media advertising and magazines had convinced me that there was such a thing as ‘ideal body’ types who were classified as ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ and I simply didn’t fit into either category. This led to me developing a sense of hatred towards my skin. I became very uncomfortable with how I looked, lacked confidence and tried to avoid conversations in relation to my skin.
Thankfully, having been on a journey of self-acceptance these past few years, things have significantly changed for me since my teens and I’ve learned to love my skin by changing my mindset, becoming part of a vitiligo community and joining Changing Faces as a campaigner. I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken part in some great campaigns where my skin has been the focus… something I could never have imagined before.
For those with vitiligo, June is a chance for us to shine the light on the condition. First publicised in June 2011, Vitiligo Awareness Month has gone from being a relatively small-scale event celebrated in the USA, to an initiative that is now celebrated globally. While education is the key message, celebrating our skin is just as important, as for many of us, disguising our skin was what we were initially taught to do.
I often feel overwhelmed during the lead up to 25 June as people reach out to one another, keen to collaborate and create inspiring content ready to share on the day. For me, World Vitiligo Day is a stark reminder of the journey I’ve been on and a recognition of how much my life has changed for the good since embracing my skin.
Having vitiligo has made me stronger. It’s made me more resilient and has allowed me to be more compassionate towards others with a visible difference because I feel like I share something special with a unique community. For the most part of my life I’ve wished that I would wake up one morning and it would have disappeared, now, I pray that it stays with me for life.