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A Year in Review | What 2021 Meant for the Vitiligo Community 

Just like 2020, the last 12 months brought a great deal of disruption to our social lives. COVID-19 nearly impacted every aspect of vitiligo awareness in the first half of 2021 from research on vitiligo moving at a snail pace to worldwide World Vitiligo Day conferences only following the “only digital” rule. Having said that, the world finally started to cope with the disruption caused by the pandemic with the rollout of vaccines across the globe.

With 2021 almost over, it’s time for our annual ritual to take a look back at all the “aha” moments, significant research findings, inclusivity moves, and media stories that significantly impacted the vitiligo community in 2021. From the celebratory moments in popular culture to some “not so encouraging” research results on vitiligo, let’s look at what dominated the news and conversation in 2021 as the world began to move past the pandemic.

Popular Culture

Through 2021 wasn’t as great as 2019 as far as the representation of the vitiligo is concerned. However, we as a community of 1% of the world’s population made some progress in movies, brand films, and books.

In January 2021, a crime drama, The White Tiger, featured a character with vitiligo. However, a few dialogues used to describe the character such as “This driver had a skin disease called vitiligo that made him look like a clown. It made my stomach churn,” and “I tilted my body as far as I could from his face.” evoked some strong emotions within the community and made many community members register their protest against such insulting remarks.

In February 2021 Mattel, Inc.’s iconic Barbie brand was named the top global toy property of the year (2020) by the NPD Group. The toymaker was recognized for representing global diversity and inclusivity with the launch of a new Fashionista line-up, which included a Barbie doll with vitiligo. The same year, a new Fortnite character named Joy was launched by Epic Games. Joy’s inclusion in Fortnite marked any video game’s first character with vitiligo.

Media

Just like last year, many community members continued getting featured in global media outlets. Roger Monte from Brazil and Antonia Livers from Utah (the USA), both were profiled by Daily Mail UK earlier in 2021. Other vitiligans with influence that were featured in global media outlets included Yvesmark Chery, a fashion model with vitiligo from Philadelphia, Prarthana Jagan, a Bengaluru-based social media influencer and makeup artist, and Reham Soliman, an Egyptian model. MARY Aquino, 24, was featured in Truly’s DATING DIFFERENT series.

The international media also highlighted some animal cruelty committed against a horse with vitiligo. Minstral, who has white spots on her body, was abandoned on a field in Braintree, Essex. Found by rescuers, the 28-year-old horse was initially mistaken for a cow. Around the same year, Salama Mohamed, a UAE influencer, talked to several media outlets, about her journey to embracing vitiligo as a brand ambassador of a much-anticipated skincare brand Peacefull.

In October 2021, Unite For Vitiligo (UFV) released the fourth edition of 10 Most Influential Vitiligans. For the annual roundup, UFV partnered with 500+ voters with vitiligo for an electronic survey who voted for about 75+ handpicked influencers.

Research

On the research front, many research studies took place on vitiligo in different parts of the world throughout the year. Some of the investigative studies conducted in 2022 concluded that:

  • People with vitiligo may be more likely to develop dementia than people without vitiligo.
  • The Koebner phenomenon could be used to predict depigmentation activity in vitiligo by evaluating the clinical features of the skin condition.
  • NB-UVB can be identified as a safe sole treatment option in vitiligo management.
  • Genes linked to vitiligo in horses possibly are tied to melanoma susceptibility.
  • People with a family history of vitiligo and a personal history of allergic diseases, such as asthma or atopic dermatitis, are more likely to encounter stress-influenced vitiligo.
  • Many patients with vitiligo may have more metabolic disturbances compared with patients without acquired pigmentary skin disorder.
  • Combined therapies such as ultraviolet light and tab methotrexate can be effective in the management of vitiligo.

Local support

Ben Brown, Terrell Midgett, and Perry Whaley were featured by Spectrum Local News (Raleigh Edition) who are currently lobbying Congress for a National Vitiligo Awareness Day. The Trio launched an online campaign to raise awareness as the community on World Vitiligo Day 2021 (WVD 2021).

Talking of WVD 2021, this year the event was celebrated all over the world mostly digitally, keeping the COVID-appropriate behavior in mind. In India, where an estimated 1312.2 million people live with vitiligo, Lenskart, a prominent optical care brand from the country, sensitized its huge customer base on vitiligo through the #SeeTheGood campaign on the occasion of world vitiligo day.

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