Each vitiligo fighter goes through emotional pain, regret, imperfections, and loneliness on a daily basis. But, what makes each one of us feel strong is flipping through a magazine and finding a vitiligo model shining away or, a photographer capturing people with asymmetrical but beautiful white patches.
If you look back, 10 years ago such representation was hardly there. We owe this much progress to some people who, knowingly or unknowingly, made us feel proud of who we are. Though they did not have the chronic skin disorder, they can be called key influencers in creating awareness for vitiligo, and rightly so. Hence, we all should be thankful to these 8 people, who helped the world celebrate skin diversity and strengthened vitiligo community in the first place.
1. Tyra Banks, Television Personality
The woman you see representing vitiligo community in the fashion world is Winnie Harlow whose decision to embrace and celebrate vitiligo left all of us feeling encouraged and proud. Not to forget, it was Tyra Banks who encouraged the aspiring model to embrace her skin condition when she appeared on America’s Next Top Model.
After the show, Winnie walked runways across the world and continued a successful career as a supermodel. Since the model has the skin disorder more prominently on her body, it made vitiligo a conversation, which was previously missing from public platforms.
During Harlow’s time on the show, Tyra did something all vitiligo fighters wish for. She did not treat her any differently, but stated that Winnie’s skin breaks down barriers of what is considered beautiful. Feeling like a proud mamma, she took to Instagram to share a photo from Harlow’s editorial in a Fashion magazine.
2. Brock Elbank, Photographer
Art has a power to connect people across the world and spread the strong message of equality. And, that’s Brock Elbank does with his photographs. Vitiligo seems to be the talented photographer’s one of the favorite subjects. With his minimalist, high-contrast portraits, Elbank highlights the beauty of vitiligo brilliantly. His photo shoots with Bashir Aziz, Shankar Jalota and Darius Vernon reiterate that the beauty is a mix of qualities, inside out.
3. John E. Harris, Researcher
Dr. Harris is a physician-scientist who focuses his clinical and research efforts on vitiligo. Harris is affiliated with many vitiligo organizations and has addressed many vitiligo research conferences across the United States. His research primarily focuses on finding new treatments, and ultimately a cure, for vitiligo.
Harris has authored multiple research publications and textbook chapters on vitiligo. He thinks about this chronic skin disorder a lot, in fact, all the time. We acknowledge his persistence and valuable contribution toward vitiligo treatment research.
— UMass Medical School (@UMassMedical) July 5, 2018
4. Alexandre Keto, Muralist
Keto has been using his art to empower women with vitiligo and help the world see beauty in different lights. The Brazilian muralist drew inspiration for his recent murals from a local teen with vitiligo – Roberta Avelino. His unique murals featuring the beauty of vitiligo caught media’s attention. This, in turn, helped the world know that vitiligo is beautiful and indeed can be subject of an art form.
5. Onir, Film Director
Known for making unconventional cinema, Onir along with writer Abhishek Chatterjee shaped something extraordinary. With his film, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, Onir injected a change in movie business’ carved-in-stone beauty standards, and we finally met a leading lady with vitiligo (for the first time in the world cinema).
The leading character of the film, Archana, is sought to be explained by vitiligo. But, she covers her insecurities with her charming, ever ready smile. Despite heartbreaks and setbacks in professional life, Archana does not give up.
In a world where there is a lack of representation of vitiligo fighters in popular culture, it’s good to see a leading character who wears her vitiligo patches like a badge of honor. The film teaches you to deal with rejections and not to seek validation from others. And, only Onir could do that to perfection.
6. Kim Kardashian, Socialite
Kim is one big-hearted person who first opened up to Winnie Harlow about her autoimmune deficiency. Over a while, both divas bonded and together launched a beauty collection – KKW X WINNIE.
Since a celebrity like Kim Kardashian was associated with the venture, the launch of the same got massive social media shout-outs and international press coverage. It made millions talk about vitiligo and affirm the fact that “one can look absolutely stunning, even with vitiligo”.
7. Ferrell Phelps, Photographer
By conceiving his recent project titled The Skin I’m In, Ferrell Phelps challenged the society’s perception of vitiligo. Vitiligo crusaders like Iomikoe Johnson, Sharon King, and Andre Joachim Jr took part in his project, which included an exhibition, the book launch, and a few YouTube talks. In early 2018, the Skin I’m In exhibition was held in Houston to celebrate the canvas of all skin types and all skin conditions.
As a celebrity photographer, Ferrell has captured some famous, beautiful people like Beyoncé Knowles, Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, Destiny’s Child, LeToya Luckett, Kelly Price, Shaquille O’Neal, Rachelle Ferrell, and Charnele Brown.
8. Fola David, Visual Artist
“The skin” is Fola David’s focus for his most recent art series. Through his artwork, David captured the beauty in different unique skin patterns and showed how fascinating it is. He worked with individuals who had stretch marks, vitiligo, acne, dark spots, and freckle.
Fola met Daniel, an 8 years old boy during his follow up appointment at a clinic. The artist noticed a unique pattern on his face, which made him come up with a series of artwork. He uploaded this series on his Instagram account on World Vitiligo Day 2018. If you look at his artwork closely, you sense a strong message of self empowerment. No wonder if his art can help you gain confidence in your skin and realize how unique you are.