She is confident and strong. She hides her worries behind that mesmerizing smile and spreads love and laughter. She draws enormous strength from her pain, only to emerge stronger and victorious.
‘Unite For Vitiligo’ is not unfamiliar with the sheer power of her grit, dedication, and determination. We consider International Women’s Day an opportunity to salute the undying spirit of many strong women with vitiligo across the world. They are challenging the stigma attached to vitiligo and emerging as the role models not only for youngsters with vitiligo but for every woman who aspires to achieve her dream.
1. Godavari Dutta, Painter
Godavari is often referred to as the Grand Old Woman of Madhubani art. The Padma Shri awardee has taken Madhubani art to unattainable heights. However, her story varies a bit due to some special circumstances.
Godavari’s husband abandoned her and their son during her early years as an artist. He left for Nepal where he would remarry and never return. She speculates that it may have had something to do with the worsening of her vitiligo. The progressive loss of melanin has now left Godavari uniformly pale. Clearly, she has seen a lot of struggle throughout her life, but she tackled the adversary gracefully with her hard work and has always held forth because of her artistic abilities.
At the age of 87, Godavari is still creatively active and has been invited to Germany and Japan numerous times where her paintings are on display in the museums. She is an example that art can indeed be used as a tool of women empowerment.
2. Winnie Harlow, Model
After gaining popularity as a contestant on America’s Next Top Model (2014), Winnie walked runways across the world and continued a successful career as a supermodel. Since Winnie does not shy away from flaunting her uniquely shaped spots on global platforms, vitiligo has been able to become a topic of conversation in mainstream media. And, we can definitely thank Winnie for that who has been featured in countless fashion magazines, including Vogue and Cosmopolitan.
In November 2018, Winnie became the first model with vitiligo to walk the ramp for Victoria’s Secret (November 2018). No wonder many young women with vitiligo want to follow her footsteps.
3. Ogo Maduewesi, Vitiligo Activist
All of us know about World Vitiligo Day. But, what we probably don’t know is that it was Ogo Maduewesi who first conceived the idea of dedicating an entire day to vitiligo awareness in her home country – Nigeria.
A vitiligo activist, social change enthusiast, and digital storyteller, Ogo is passionately concerned about building positive body image and psychosocial wellbeing with her venture Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF). If we all can join hands to be a vitiligo awareness activist like Ogo, the stigma associated with vitiligo can soon be removed across the world.
4. Hedvig Lindahl, Sportswoman
Chelsea Women goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl was just five years old when she noticed a few white patches on her knees. Vitiligo is something which the Swede sports star has come to terms with, but it hasn’t been an easy journey. This is why speaking up and raising awareness of skin disorder is important to the Swedish international. “If it feels tough, continue on the journey to acceptance. You’ll have a reason to stand out, which is what a lot of people strive for – to be unique in some way!” Hedvig shared a powerful message with fellow vitiligo fighters when asked about her skin condition. We hope youngsters living from vitiligo can take some inspiration from her story.
5. Leleti Khumalo, Actress
Leleti, best known for her role in Hotel Rwanda (2004), did something extraordinary and not so common to explmify a woman’s courage. The TV star and producer who had her first encounter with vitiligo at the age of 19 decided not to cover her white patches with makeup. She embraced her individuality and appeared with her full-blown vitiligo on etv’s popular show – Imbewu. This way, Leleti helped many viewers educate (indirectly) on the skin disorder. Responding to a fan on Twitter (who thanked her for speaking out on vitiligo), she said it was important not to feel ashamed, but beautiful.