Based on my personal experience, I can testify that it takes some time to get used to living with vitiligo and claim one’s confidence back. One of the reasons behind this is vitiligo’s underrepresented in popular culture, especially in films and television shows. All of us with vitiligo are real people in flesh and blood. But that doesn’t reflect in movies and TV – the most consumed format of entertainment. We all know that 1% of the world’s population is living with vitiligo. But, not even 0.1% of us, with vitiligo, can be seen in the movies running in our neighborhood and web shows streaming on our favorite OTT platforms.
Here’s a quick roundup of “vitiligo’s so far representation” in movies, documentaries, and television programs.
So far, only three Indian films, Nital, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz and Imago, have managed to feature a protagonist (both female in these cases) with vitiligo. Imago draws inspiration from the filmmakers’ friend’s vitiligo journey who was extremely beautiful but did not feel attractive because of the skin condition. Unlike Kuch Bheege Alfaaz, in Imago, the leading character with vitiligo is played by an actress with vitiligo – Aishwarya Ghaydar.
Deadpool 2 also featured a character (Domino) that appear to have segmental vitiligo. Just like Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, the actress who portrayed the character in the superhero flick didn’t have vitiligo. We wish, in the future, we see actors with vitiligo cast in these roles. In 2020, T.I., a famous American actor and rapper played an important character with vitiligo in Netflix’s Cut Throat City. The streaming platform’s another movie – The White Tiger – also featured an important character with vitiligo, played by actor Nalneesh Neel.
Many Hollywood actors with vitiligo including Thomas Lennon, Jon Hamm, and Steve Martin have not come out and spoken about the skin condition in public let alone playing any character with vitiligo on screen. Almost all of these actors have been working in movies and television covering their dual-colored skin under makeup.
On the reality television front, Winnie Harlow appeared as the first contestant with vitiligo on America’s Next Top Model in 2014. This was before the supermodel broke into the global fashion industry. Sara Stanford, a businesswoman with vitiligo also participated in a business reality show – NCB Capital Quest. She was placed 2nd for her enterprising spirit and great business acumen. Kaun Banega Crorepati’s Season 11 also featured the show’s very first contestant with vitiligo – Arun Kumar Mishra, a mathematics teacher from Bhopal.
The only exception in the case of fictional shows is South African actress, Leleti Khumalo, who has decided not to cover vitiligo. She became the first woman with vitiligo to play an important character in a popular TV show anywhere in the world. Apart from Khumalo, a few character actors with vitiligo were seen in the Indian TV series Bhabhi Ji Ghar Par Hai and Still About Section 377.