It’s hard when people stare at you or whisper about those asymmetrical white patches. Tiffany Grant found a creative solution to that problem. She got an “It’s called vitiligo” tattoo to educate people on the skin disorder. What followed was a series of media coverage (in Dailymail, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Inked, and a lot more) and thousands of Instagram shoutouts.
Now, not only all vitiligo fighters but people outside the community also draw inspiration from her. But, was Tifanny accepted and lauded like this always? “I once had a man switch seats on the subway because he didn’t want to “catch” my skin condition. I even have had a woman put gloves on at the nail salon because she didn’t want to “catch” my vitiligo,” she recollects.
During her childhood, Tiffany fell and scraped her knees. Once those scab healed, she had little vitiligo spots on her knees. Tiffany was just seven years old at that time. Sadly, social media or hashtags weren’t around in 1997, which could connect her to fellow vitiligo fighters and make her feel less isolated.
During the teenage, everyone struggles with their identity and self-esteem. Now imagine what a teenager, whose 75% of the body was covered in white patches, would feel. Tiffany recalls her struggle, “Middle school was the absolute worst for me. I didn’t feel pretty. I didn’t feel feminine. I felt like I had to hide and cover my vitiligo as much as I possibly could.”
While Tiffany was struggling with low self-esteem and strange stares, unkind remarks weren’t helping either. The 27-year-old New Yorker opens up, “I heard people talk about me in passing. I’ve had people say things and embarrass me publicly.” If this wasn’t enough, she was bullied through social media. “The go-to comments are always like cow, dalmatian, ghost face, burned with bleach, tanned under a tree or the girl with the weird skin.”
She pretended as if none of this ever bothered her. She felt that if she told people about bullying, they’d not want to be a part of her life. She internalized all of her feelings until she decided to get past self-pity. In 2015, she got a tattoo on her arm that said, “It’s called Vitiligo.” By now, she wanted people to be able to put a name to the condition. “I wanted people to feel comfortable to ask me about the tattoo so that I can educate them about vitiligo. In getting this tattoo, I found the courage to inspire others, to be true to themselves” Tiffany explains the intention behind her tattoo that’s all over the internet now.
When her story went viral in 2015, Tiffany was seen as an inspiration in the vitiligo community. She felt that it was important for her to use her voice and advocate loving the skin one is in as it is. “It’s okay to cover your spots. It’s okay to embrace your spots. It is your choice. You have to do what makes you happy. What is important is that we educate and raise awareness,” the young mom explains what vitiligo advocacy means to her.
Today Tiffany is busy at work. She works remotely for an educational company as a Mock Testing Associate, occasionally writes for Living Dappled and Zanderm and has recently started “It’s called Vitiligo” campaign to share the journey of people living with vitiligo.
When we asked her about her professional achievements, she responded, “I got my CASAC-T (credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor-trainee) in 2014. I also started my own business a few years back called Perfect Penguin Consulting. I helped people create their online dating profiles and coached them throughout the process. I put this on the side after getting pregnant.”
Tiffany still has her deep-rooted insecurities around vitiligo, but she has come to accept it. She comments: “I have come to accept the beauty in being me. I have come to embrace my skin. I no longer let my vitiligo control me. I still have days where I suffer from skin envy and wish I didn’t have it, but I also have days where I proud to show it off”.
To meet more inspiring vitiligo fighters like Tiffany Grant, keep following Vitiligo Crusaders, only on uniteforvitiligo.com.