Denise Chamberlain, 42, is a full-time mother, nanny and home health aide. Apart from donning these many caps, she is working as a model, speaker and most importantly as a voice of vitiligo awareness. She has participated in Paul Mitchell Hair and Fashion Show, Indianapolis Black Expo (Passion 4 Fashion Week), BeYoutiful Hair and Fashion Show, and New York Fashion Week and as a fashion model. She has been featured in a few magazines and has taken part in body positivity programs like Underneath We Are Women. Though Denise’s vitiligo journey sounds like a success story, it took her a long time to ditch makeup and be who she is today – a role model for young girls with vitiligo.
Denise noticed her first vitiligo patch at the age of 10, around one of her fingertips. She shares, “It was terrible from the day I got it until 3 years ago when I finally found self-love. As a child, teenager and adult, I tried to take my own life. My vitiligo had a hold of me. I just did not want anyone to see my it. It kept me from learning in school as I was too worried about my stupid makeup coming off. Since I covered my hands with makeup, I tried to keep it from getting all over my papers and school books. But, of course, that was impossible. If I forgot to put my name on my paper the teacher knew it was mine.”
Denise says she didn’t exactly experience bullying as a child. Her older brother would say strange things sometimes, but she knew he had a different type of sense of humor. The real bullying started when Denise stepped into adulthood. “When I came out on the social media, a young lady requested me as a friend. She took my photo and put it on a site to make fun of me. A few have called me panda, but it only made me laugh as I find pandas cute and beautiful.”
People often think vitiligo is rather Leprosy or contagious. Denise too faces such misconceptions at times, She is often mistaken by a burn victim. Some even tell her that they feel sorry for me. But, that doesn’t stop Denise to love herself now: “I have missed out on enough of life because of my vitiligo. But, I would not change it for the world. It did take me long, miserable 29 years to get comfortable with my vitiligo. I love myself and the person that I am now, plus I know I am beautiful too.”
Denise’s inspiration during her journey would be her children and a nonprofit vitiligo support group – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (FWM). She is closing working with FWM in the capacity of vice president.
Denise has been on air on shows like Inside Indy with Kelly Vaughn, ‘The Angel Starks Show with Damone Means’, ‘Diva Talk Tonite’ and ‘Ladies of Society’. However, she considers telling my story on Fox 59 and Inside Edition as her best experience. “The work only helped me in becoming a speaker. So, I started telling my story to help others and spreading awareness. Me and my group rally every year on World Vitiligo Day. In just a few years of rallying, we were able to speak to the senator in Washington, to bring awareness and try to get funding for vitiligo.”
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#9thAnnualChicagoFashionShow liveoutloudcharity Producer: @sherriegearheart Photographer: Cuauhtemoc Campos Dress: Natalia Marie #pranamaker This was a amazing show!!! You guys need to check out the live footage. My photographer outdid himself 🙌🙌 Thank you for the beautiful picture and the opportunity being apart of a awesome event!!!
Many of us, who have gotten comfortable in our skin, often forget that everyone cannot handle vitiligo. This is one of the reasons why In the last 2 years, the vitiligo crusader has walked in Anderson and Indianapolis, Indiana against suicide. “I want the world to find a cure for vitiligo. I choose to stay the way I am now. But, we know that vitiligo can be destructive to the heart and mind.”
When we asked Denise to leave us with a message, she indeed had something empowering to share, “Please do not give up even though it gets hard. Find help. There are so many groups you can join. There is light at the end of the tunnel even though it seems dark. We deserve to live, laugh and love. I urge all fellow vitiligo fighters to attend a World Vitiligo Day event. It will be a game changer!”
Well, we hope you take Denise’s advice seriously and attempt to look beyond vitiligo. After all, as Denise said, we all deserve to live our lives to the fullest.