Tom Radido had his first encounter with vitiligo in 2008. The shock of living with the unknown left him depressed as a teenager, into his early 20s. Since there are many things that people commonly get wrong about your vitiligo, Tom too had to experience others’ curiosity who thought it to be cancer or burn. On his journey to self love, he even came across many who perceived his vitiligo to be a curse.
The 29-year old model and filmmaker says it took him to a year to get used to living with vitiligo. During this time, books like The Selfish Gene (a 1976 book on evolution by Richard Dawkins) helped him develop strong, independent thinking. “I have developed confidence and acceptance myself. Having it or not was certainly not within my control. Since I have it already, now I use it as a stepping stone,” Tom shares.
Tom has been suggested demeaning treatments from peers and relatives, but he rather focuses on building up his confidence and collaborating with other Kenyan with vitiligo (as reflected on his Instagram account. “I currently don’t use any skin creams to change my skin. At the moment, I don’t see it of any value. Since there are no sure drugs for the cure, the available treatments at times make things worse and give you false hope,” Tom makes a point.
Just like many vitiligo crusaders featured in this series, Tom too feels that people with Vitiligo are underrepresented in books and movies. “In my country, someone with vitiligo has to work even harder to get a job. There is a need for a lot of literature on vitiligo. We also need to see vitiligo being represented in films.”
Last year, Tom shot a film that addresses the plight of those living with vitiligo for a national competition in Kenya and won best short film award at Kalasha Films and TV Awards under the best diaspora production category. Tom did all of this with limited resources but managed to take a step in having the society learn more about vitiligo through films. “A lot of investments need to be put on vitiligo medical research and awareness to help those desperate for cure and treatment. Awareness initiatives shall help the society have more knowledge on the condition in order to avoid stigma in countries where it’s deeply misunderstood,” Tom explains why vitiligo awareness is the need of the hour.
We wish more teenagers with vitiligo draw inspiration from Tom’s vitiligo journey. We hope all of us invest our energy in our dreams rather than indulging in self pity in vitiligo.