Prasanthi was 12 years old when she first noticed a white spot on her face. Today, at the age of 31, she has white patches all over her body. In the beginning, as a teen, it was very difficult for Prasanthi to accept it as she couldn’t find words to share what she had been going through. Even today after all these years, people still stare at her, ask her questions or randomly pass comments at her. “I never thought that a small white spot could change my life so much, that it not only affected my skin but also left a scar on my soul. In a country obsessed with beauty and white skin, I was a young girl with two shades of skin – a problem identified as vitiligo- which is not an ideal combination,” shares Prasanthi.
Over the years, Prasanthi had been called names like Panda, Dalmatian, Leper, Spotty face and sometimes even was treated as an untouchable. She recalls one of the most horrifying experiences: “A guy, who grew up in the same neighborhood as me, used to call me Spotty face. He used to shout that on the street every time I passed by. He did not bother where I was, how I felt or even how it would affect me. I believed he enjoyed humiliating me.”
Throughout her journey, Prasanthi’s family has been very supportive, but she could tell that they were worried at the same time. “I have had many experiences where strangers came up to me, my family or my friends and suggested some medications, rituals or even weird beliefs. Even today as a young woman, I am shocked to notice the interest strangers have in my life or my skin and how being flawed and vulnerable influences predators.”
Though vitiligo was not something pleasant and easy to have, it surely made Prasanthi stronger. “It changed my entire focus on education; I worked hard and today I am a double master degree from Long Island University, working as a research associate in the field of Science.”
With the help of her family’s support, Prasanthi founded a non-profit establishment known as Sampara Foundation, which mainly focuses on educating the public about vitiligo. “I have started this initiative to create awareness on vitiligo and to also help people with similar health problems. I chose to convert my weakness into strength and accept my imperfections. I sometimes feel vitiligo is my superpower as it has helped me become a better person,” the vitiligo crusader signs off.