It was 2018 when Unite For Vitiligo first released its list of 10 most influential people with vitiligo aka vitiligans. Since then the list has been trying to be a mirror of the vitiligo community and those who shape it. Just like any year, the 3rd edition of “10 Most Influential Vitiligans” lists thought leaders with vitiligo that are working toward a better, inclusive world.
Produced in partnership with over 500+ survey participants who voted for about 75+ handpicked influencers, this year’s list includes many from extraordinary to lesser-known individuals who seized the moment to build a vitiligo awareness movement, lifting the spirit of those feeling isolated. Their work challenges each of us to wield our own influence toward a world that is more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.
10. Manisha Malik, Fashion Blogger
If it wasn’t for a YouTube video named “What’s Wrong with My Wife?,” the world would have never discovered the talents of Manisha Malik. In a short interview video, Manisha’s husband Karl sat down with the social media influencer, recording her experience of living and now thriving with vitiligo. The earnest video got the attention it deserved. It got viral; it was shared, reshared, and re-grammed across social media platforms and garnered almost 2 million views.
The video we are talking about may have been published in July last year, but its content is still being watched, raising awareness around the condition. “My advice is nobody would take a stand for you until you take a stand for yourself. So next time they tell you that you can’t have a normal life because you have vitiligo, just tell them you’re wrong and you’re lying. I’ll show you. I’ll prove it. I’ll have a job. I’ll lead a normal life like any other person,” Manisha’s this quote from the video continues to resonate with many vitiligans even in these crazy times.
9. Faried Molai, Advocate for Vitiligo Awareness
Known as “Vitiligo Icon” in the community, Faried Molai had his first encounter with vitiligo at the age of 15. Today a 29-year-old entrepreneur from The Netherlands, Faried has created an ecosystem around vitiligo awareness. He founded Vitiligo Awareness Int. (VAI) – a non-profit created to expand vitiligo awareness worldwide! VAI publishes annual vitiligo awareness merchandise to give shelf life to all vitiligo awareness messages.
Last year, Faried made his first appearance on Dutch national television. The awareness advocate was interviewed for the television program “Mooier Word Het Niet”, talking about what inspired him to do his bit for awareness. Faried has also been featured in Zonderling’s music video – “I Do.”
8. Sharon King, Disability Rights Advocate
If you are an internet savvy vitiligan, you must know all about Litty Ligo. Sharon King is the brain behind the vitiligo support network that provides education on vitiligo, and empowerment via social media, user content, events, products, and merchandise.
A disability rights advocate and services coordinator, Sharon is also a board-certified high school Sports official and inspiration for many within the vitiligo community. No wonder, her social space is always flooded with countless “thank you” messages.
7. Leleti Khumalo, Actress
In the entertainment industry, appearance is everything. This was the prime reason why Leleti Khumalo was desperately looking for a cure until she decided to let people know that vitiligo isn’t something that defines her. The award-winning South African actress, who catapulted to fame as a teenager in Sarafina!, recently ditched her attempts to disguise her spots. This started with her role as MaZulu in the e.tv drama Imbewu: The Seed. The actress discussed with the show’s executive producers that she wanted to play a character with vitiligo, no longer wanting to conceal her skin under heavy layers of makeup.
Leleti, who discovered her first white spot at the age of 18, is attracting more attention for all the right reasons. She has been speaking with global media outlets about vitiligo and myths around it other than appearing in her professional commitment (mostly TV shows and walking red carpets) without camouflage makeup.
6. Yan Valle, Author and Advocate for Vitiligo Awareness
Executive Director at world-famous non-profit Vitiligo Research Foundation, Yan Valle has launched a global awareness campaign for vitiligo and grew it from zero to over 500,000 active members in six years. Apart from having led and coordinated multiple patient support group activities across the USA, Yan held vitiligo educational events in 18 countries for 4,500-plus doctors and key opinion leaders in healthcare.
An inspirational leader, consultant, and writer, Yan through YR Foundation is actively involved in improving the quality of life for those affected by skin disabilities. His book, “No-Nonsense Guide To Vitiligo,” has become an excellent resource for the vitiligo community, being translated into many languages.
5. Ogo Maduewesi, Advocate for Vitiligo Awareness
By now, every vitiligo fighter knows that the idea of a World Vitiligo Day (WVD) was first nursed by Steve Haragadon, the founder of the Vitiligo Friends network. But, it was Ogo Maduewesi, a Nigerian vitiligo awareness activist, who nurtured this idea and celebrated the world’s first WVD event.
The founder of the Vitiligo Support and Awareness Foundation (VITSAF) was diagnosed with vitiligo at the age of 10. After going through the phases of confusion and failed treatment, Ogo started holding support group sessions to help others with the condition and found VITSAF.
While traveling around the world to speak on awareness around the chronic skin disorder, Ogo continues to educate others about vitiligo through fundraisers, awareness campaigns, radio shows, and short TV fillers, primarily in her home country- Nigeria.
4. Erika Page, Blogger
A blogger, speaker, and self-love advocate, Erika brought everybody’s much-deserved attention to universal vitiligo. After living with the chronic skin disorder for 20+ years, Erika founded Living Dappled – a community of inspiration and self-help for women living with vitiligo. Since 2016, Erika and her team, have been tirelessly creating meaningful, purposeful content for the tight-knit community.
In October this year, Living Dappled, under Erika’s supervision, launched a membership network called ” DAPPLED DARLINGS.” DD is designed to give women with vitiligo more connection, more support (with admission to a “member-only” Facebook group), and more answers.
3. Shahad Salman, Model
Just a year ago, there had never been a Victoria Secret model with vitiligo. So, isn’t surprising why we didn’t see models with vitiligo in the middle east lifestyle magazines and catalogs. This is where Shahad Salman a Mecca-based model with vitiligo stepped in.
Shahad was first shot by ace photographer Dan Beleiu for the world’s most influential magazine – Vogue. She was featured on the cover of the magazine alongside none other than Winnie Harlow. After being part of Vogue world exclusive, themed “women standing for women, Shahad has been signing on many diversity modeling assignments. Last seen in Mercedes-Benz Cars’ marketing campaign, Shahad continues being an inspiration not only for women with vitiligo but for young aspiring girls from the middle east.
2. Lee Thomas, Entertainment Reporter
If you have already seen Lee Thomas’ TED Talk – ” How I help people understand vitiligo,” you would understand why voters put him in second place. The Emmy-winning entertainment reporter’s movie review show, “CriticLee Speaking,” is not unknown to anybody in North America. However, he became a role model for everyone in the community right after launching his memoir of living with vitiligo – Turning White. Since then, Lee has been speaking on global platforms creating a clear global path for self-acceptance, diversity, and inclusion.
Apart from a Certified Diversity Professional with the National Diversity Council (NDCCDP), Lee is also the global spokesperson for the Vitiligo Society of London and Vstrong USA.
1. Winnie Harlow, Model
Winnie Harlow, known as this massive supermodel, has been saying it for quite some time now – “It’s not only about vitiligo. It is more than that.” The 26-year-old youth icon is not only a role model for many with vitiligo but also for those who don’t want to be judged by their face scars, birthmarks, freckles, or any of those everyday’s visual differences.
Winnie who spent her career breaking barriers recently partnered with Kim Kardashian-West to launch the KKW x WINNIE beauty collection. The first model with vitiligo to be featured on the cover of Vogue, Winnie is also the first Victoria’s Secret Angel who just happens to have vitiligo. The stunner has topped the list for the 3rd time in a row.