Domonique J Vinegar aka Scooben Von Duben would calls himself a ‘General Creative’. But, in reality, he is a ‘Creative Genius’. The 31-year-old vitiligo crusader sings, raps and writes songs. Being a hip-hop dancer, he teaches and choreographs. He is also a fashion and sports model; and, yes, he is group fitness instructor and personal trainer too. He runs a handmade designer hat company called GymmyKappz and has also founded a nonprofit organization called “Blotchlife,” which is all about empowering and encouraging people with vitiligo. Today, Domonique is an inspiration for young vitiligo fighters. But, like many, it took him a while to be proud of his vitiligo journey.
Domonique was born with a small diamond on his forehead and a few white patches on his knees and shins. Another vitiligo patch didn’t appear until the summer before he entered the 7th grade. “As a kid I guess it didn’t affect me the same way. I’d been fine having spots as a kid because they didn’t move. If I didn’t want to be the spotty kid, I could just wear pants to cover my legs so it wasn’t such a big deal. It started to spread in the 7th grade and of all places it started on my lip,” Domonique shares.
From this point forward, Domonique couldn’t hide his vitiligo anymore. The bullying seemed almost constant. “I was going through puberty and full of all kinds of hormones, and on top of all that, my face was changing almost daily. It was a really hard time for me and it didn’t help that people were picking on me. In high school, it was worse. It was as if as I got older, the comments got worse. People were calling me skeet face or “cum stain. It was awful.”
The vitiligo crusader, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, didn’t deal with bullying very well at first. He went through all the stages, depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-hate before finally finding self-acceptance. “Since I was born with it, I never really had much of a problem living with vitiligo personally. I always thought it looked cool. My challenge was learning not to put so much care into what other people thought and also learning not to assume that everyone thought it was a bad thing,” he pours his heart out.
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From the re-Adorned | Catharsis Fashion and Art Gallery! It was so great to work with someone with so much creativity and passion for what their art! Featuring: Fashions by: @nomad3176 Photography by @tinagutierrezartsphotography @cincyshakes #vitiligo #vitiligomodel #model #malemodel #africanamerican #cubanamerican #africaninspired #heritage #photoshoot #photography #art #artgallery #fashion #walk #runway #fashionshow #handmade #handmadejewelry #jewelry #handmadeclothing #clothing #cinci #cincynightlife #readorned #catharsis #tinagutierrezartsphotography #nomad3176 #scoobenvonduben
Domonique says a quote from the movie – Catwoman gave him a perspective and helped him come out strong: “There’s a quote from the movie that says something along the lines of – give up who you are and become who you were born to be. That line gave me so much peace about my vitiligo spreading. I wasn’t just some person who was set in stone. I was constantly changing, growing and evolving into what I was born to be! I found so much freedom in that.”
Today, Domonique absolutely, positively LOVES his vitiligo! He is the self-titled, Blotchy Dred Man. “I am so happy that I get to share my experience and answer people’s questions. It’s such a wonderful thing to see the patterns my body makes all on its own! If my vitiligo went away I’D BE DEVASTATED!!!! I’d feel so normal and basic, like a peacock with no color or a leopard with no spots,” Domonique makes a valid point.
Is there anything else that inspired him to be who he is a today – a strong, confident who is representing vitiligo in a positive light? “When I was a teenager I was taking treatment to cure my vitiligo and slowly but surely it was working! My spots were fading! One night my mom put some makeup on me so I could get a preview of what I’d look like and I HATED IT! That guy was so boring! It just wasn’t me! From that day I knew I loved my spots,” Domonique recalls the incident that made him fall in love with his vitiligo.
Domonique is happy that people like Winnie Harlow and Curtis McDaniel are paving the way for more people with vitiligo. This could be one of the reasons why he is deeply saddened when people treat their vitiligo: “I totally understand it though and cast ZERO judgments for their choice. It can be really hard having to stand out everywhere you go and wanting so badly just to be like everyone else. But, it makes me sad that others succumb to the pressure to fit in and reject who they are. There’s honestly nothing wrong with us. Yeah, we may need some extra sunscreen, but vitiligo itself is a completely superficial condition. ! I’d just like everyone with vitiligo who is reading this to know that IT IS OK TO BE DIFFERENT, and YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE.”
Domonique is currently in school to be an American Sign Language Interpreter, to add another feather in his cap. He is also working on his first novel. Well, we can’t wait anymore.
You can follow Domonique on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Scooben Von Duben!