How far would you go to cure vitiligo? Joti Gara-Aura went to extremes to correct her vitiliginous skin. But, now she is not ashamed to acknowledge that it took her years to accept the skin she is in. Today, she is teaching the critical lesson of acceptance of all, and exclusion of none.
Joti noticed vitiligo when she was 21 years old. She was pursuing a degree in Spanish and studying in Spain at that time. “I remember saying to my best friend I can see this small white spot on my arm and I don’t know what it is. We talked about this for hours and hours. When I returned to London, my tan started to fade, and this spot became more visible,” recalls Joti.
Since the 20s and 30s is the prime time when body image is proclaimed important, living with vitiligo was incredibly hard for Joti. She was so conscious about what to wear when she was out and about. She hid her vitiligo for the world. People thought her patches to be contagious. They even asked if everyone in her family had vitiligo.
It took her 20 years to ‘accept’ vitiligo and move on. It’s only recently her life has progressed so positively. “I spent 20 years battling this condition. I did such intense treatments that mentally killed me. Steroid injections were the worst where I would have injections all over my body and be in immense pain. I did Chinese treatment, Indian treatment, PUVA, NHS treatment. You name it, and I did it, but nothing worked for me.”
When we asked her how she feels about having vitiligo now, she responded: “Now, I embrace it. It is a part of me and who I am. I am a teacher, a mother, a wife, a daughter and this does not change the person I am. I love my white skin now. I have got used to the lighter color now. I no longer control vitiligo and let it just do what it wants to do.” Through difficult times, working on her body has played an enormous let in. After having kids and going through self-belief training, Joti has gained confidence and inner belief in herself. She was recently photographed by Brock Elbank for his Vitiligo Photo series.
Joti is currently working as a secondary school teacher. She took part in a documentary called MisFITS, which have made her students (who have watched it) ask her more questions about vitiligo. “I have written articles on vitiligo for my school newsletter. I have taken part in radio shows to highlight the condition and have been regularly microblogging on Instagram, emphasizing the challenges faced with the condition,” Joti mentions her recent work.
Joti has had a rough journey. When she was diagnosed, she didn’t have social media and had no one to turn to. Now, we have a world, a community and support out there to help people. “I want people to know that “it’s ok. Embrace your individuality and beauty. You will get there in your own time and pace.”, the Spanish teacher tells us.
Joti’s Instagram (vitiligo_and_me) represents a true reflection of living with the condition and coming to terms with it gradually.