We’re living in the most amazing time in human history. Yet, those living with vitiligo often don’t exhaust their ability to do everything they want to. However, over the years, we have also seen some visionary entrepreneurs, writers, and artists with vitiligo who have overcome overwhelming obstacles to create an extraordinary life, all on their own terms. They are personifying inclusivity on global platforms and are influencing millions around the world to make a difference just like them.
For our second annual roundup of such 10 Most Influential Vitiligans, we maintained a database of more than 1100 vitiligo fighters. Out of them, 400+ participated in an electronic survey. We chose more than 55 influencers as candidates for this survey. All candidates came from different walks of life and were chosen based on their vitiligo advocacy and the impact of their work. Let’s scroll down to check who all made to the list of 10 Most Influential Vitiligans.
10. Iomikoe Johnson, Artist
Known as Vitiligo Goddess within the vitiligo community, Iomikoe Johnson just finished acting in ‘Birthmark’, a social film about vitiligo. 38 years old author and the business owner of ‘My Confidence Is Contagious’ has been featured on various social media platforms, spreading vitiligo awareness. Iomikoe modeled for ‘Skin Deep: The Skin I’m In’ – an exhibition By celebrity photographer Ferrell Phelps and appeared in many articles and television shows for vitiligo advocacy.
Today, Iomikoe is seen as an inspiration within the vitiligo community. Reason? Inspiring quotes like these: “It’s okay to feel how you feel but it’s not okay to harm or beat yourself up for it. We must embrace the skin we’re in and be proud and honored that God chose us to look different and be unique.”
9. Leleti Khumalo, Actress
Leleti is one of the most familiar faces in South Africa, gracing magazine covers and appearing in hit films one after another. But, fans that followed her career for years are now seeing every white patch on her body in new e.tv drama series Imbewu: The Seed.
After years of hiding her skin under layers of make-up to mask her vitiligo, Leleti is now on a mission to educate people about the chronic skin condition. As per the South African actress, she will be soon chairing educational talks on vitiligo to ensure a social impact.
8. Kyra Furlong, Model
Once nicknamed ‘Dalmatian’, Kyra Furlong is now one of the busiest models in Canada. After hitting the runway for Toronto Fashion Week, the Canadian beauty never looked back and has been signing brand endorsement deals, one after another.
There is something about the effortlessness with which Kyra flaunts her vitiligo. Each one of her Instagram feeds oozes confidence and personality, inspiring thousands of girls to be comfortable in their own skin. This could be one of the reasons why this she was voted for the 8th spot on the list.
7. Erika Page, Blogger
The only influencer with universal vitiligo on the list, Erika Page found the first lifestyle blog for girls with vitiligo in June 2016. Growing up with vitiligo, she realized that her perspective on living with vitiligo is unique and she might have a message to share with others with vitiligo. While there was plenty of information on treatments on the internet, the challenges of living with vitiligo on a daily basis were left unaddressed. That’s how the idea of Living Dappled was hatched.
Today, livingdappled.com, under the leadership of Erika, is thriving as a web space that does not shy away from talking about the harsher realities of living with vitiligo. Yet, it doesn’t fail to bring forth compelling stories and self-help guides to uplift girls with vitiligo.
6. Bianca Rosemarie, Model
Last year, Gillette Venus rolled out its My Skin, My Way campaign, showcasing skin diversity. The campaign featured Bianca Rosemarie, a model with vitiligo, in all her glory. The vitiligo community applauded Bianca for representing women with vitiligo who aren’t often featured in major ad campaigns otherwise.
The 25-year-old biology student from Vienna is the brand’s first model with vitiligo who has helped the world celebrate women of every skin type, including vitiligo. And, we don’t have to say it again that Bianca simply shined in it.
5. Yan Valle, Author and Vitiligo Activist
Best known as the founder of the VR Foundation, Yan Valle has chaired many vitiligo awareness conferences globally. He has put years of his research and practical experience(s) with vitiligo in No-Nonsense Guide To Vitiligo, the book, which would ultimately become an excellent resource for the vitiligo community. Through this book, Yan has helped many vitiligo fighters avoid misdiagnosis, mistreatment, self-prescription, and self-medication in vitiligo.
4. Ogo Maduewesi, Vitiligo Activist
The founder of the Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF), Ogo was diagnosed with vitiligo at the age of 10. After going through the phases of confusion and failed treatment, she realized that others with vitiligo needed help as well.
Soon, Ogo started holding support group sessions and found VITSAF. She started connecting with other vitiligo fighters across Africa and traveled around the world to take part in vitiligo awareness summits. It was Ogo who first visualized an entire day dedicated toward vitiligo awareness, which would eventually be called World Vitiligo Day today.
3. Michaela DePrince, Ballet Dancer
Michaela DePrince (born as Mabinty) is a star ballerina with the Dutch National Ballet. But, the stories that play out up on stage, as melodramatic as they might be, can’t even come close to Michaela’s own miraculous journey of perseverance, dedication, and survival.
In the midst of a civil war, her father was killed by rebels, and her mother died soon after from starvation. 3-year-old Mabinty (who was born with vitiligo) was abandoned at an orphanage where she was called a Devil’s Child. A gust of wind blew a magazine up against the gate outside the orphanage and she found an image of a ballerina.
After being adopted by a family, Michaela secured a successful career in ballet. The rising American ballet star was named one of Newsweek/The Daily Beast’s “125 Women of Impact” in 2013. Isn’t it an inspiring story?
2. Lee Thomas, Entertainment Reporter
Just ask any vitiligo fighter who Lee Thomas is, and he/she will answer – “he is my inspiration”. In 1996, Lee discovered not many white spots on his scalp, which would soon cover half of his face. After hiding his vitiligo beneath makeup for years, he finally shared his vitiligo story on the air. He subsequently started a support group in his city and published a thought-provoking memoir – Turning White: A Memoir of Change.
The entertainment reporter has been a part of several vitiligo awareness forums and has been an active vitiligo awareness advocate for years. Lee grabbed the same spot on the list in 2018 as well.
1. Winnie Harlow, Model
This year has been all about Winnie Harlow and her awe-inspiring interviews. Just a few months after walking the ramp for Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show (Winnie is the first model with vitiligo to walk the ramp for the show), the supermodel recently appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Jonathan Ross Show. On both shows, Winnie once again made it clear that she isn’t a vitiligo sufferer.
From appearing on countless magazine covers to being the face and body of MAC Viva Glam Campaign 25, Winnie is leaving no stone unturned to strengthen vitiligo’s representation in popular culture. Well, isn’t it well-understood why she has topped the list of 10 Most Influential Vitiligans this year too.
Vitiligans who almost made to the list were:
• Amy Deanna, Model
• Tiffany Grant, Writer
• April Star, Child Model
• Sharon King, Vitiligo Activist
• Shantanu Gosavi, Model