I was diagnosed with Vitiligo when I was 26, and I was devastated, to say the least. I began to realise you can neither heal from nor move past something unless you accept it, so I started going to therapy. After that, I stopped wearing makeup to hide my condition, and I started posting more natural pictures of myself on social media. The response was incredible. We only get one life, and I didn’t want my vanity to rob me of my freedom. Loving the skin I’m in didn’t come naturally, but I found strength in my uniqueness when I started connecting with other people from around the world who also have it. Realising I wasn’t alone helped me tremendously and motivated me to contribute to body positivity by raising consciousness and understanding in every way I could. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve become a more positive person. It’s taught me that you can rise above anything, regardless of what you’re going through. The fact that I believe in myself a little more than I used to is liberating. Before Vitiligo, I knew little about the importance of self-love and how to be kind to myself. If I knew what I know now when I was 18, I would’ve loved myself with the same tenacity and pureness that I did everyone else, and I would’ve stressed the importance of being kinder to myself. Now, I believe even the hardest and most painful times in life, ultimately, serve a purpose.
For me, it’s liberating to be in the modelling industry and look so different from the stereotypical beauty norm we all grew up with. Knowing I’m part of a body positive movement that can help other individuals accept themselves is a great feeling, and modelling has given me that platform. You don’t have to have Vitiligo to relate to me – perhaps your blemishes are internal, in the form of anxiety or depression, or maybe you’re overweight or anorexic. Whatever it is that someone else is going through, I’m easy to relate to because I’ve battled inner demons. I’ve felt like I wasn’t good enough to such an extent that I was ready to end it all. I want people to look at me and change the way they view themselves and feel accepted for who they are.
Dealing with prejudice and discrimination in the industry
The beauty narrative is finally starting to shift. We’re seeing more diversity and inclusivity in the modelling industry than ever before: people with Vitiligo, Alopecia, plus-size models, transgender people, and even people with disabilities are being represented, in all sorts of cool campaigns and at fashion shows. Brands have woken up to the fact that every type of person has the right to exist within the industry; but we still have a long way to go, not just in the modelling industry but in society, in general. Sure, discrimination and prejudice still exists, but so does a different level of self-love and empowerment, and I fully believe some people won’t stop knocking down barriers in the industry until everyone is treated equally.
The concept of beauty on social media
Social media has been instrumental in changing the concept of beauty. We’re no longer limited to one specific definition of beauty because this platform allows so many of us to express our talents and creativity, regardless of how we look. Before brands became more inclusive, social media allowed all of us to be represented. When used correctly, it’s the driving force behind a new era for beauty. People often joke that everyone wants to be an Instagram makeup artist or model, and to that I say, so what? So many of us finally have a space where we can create and share, and that’s a beautiful thing. That said, having a real sense of self-belief is key. It’s not just about the temporary confidence that comes from having a good day; you must believe in yourself, even when times are tough.
Be true to who you are
I used to find it offensive when people imitated my skin condition. I would often think, ‘how can these people be so insensitive to something that I and another 1% of the world’s population struggle with?’ I fell into a depression because my skin colour changed, and I was mortified that people were taking my pain and turning it into a fashion trend. Only once I’d healed and begun to embrace my skin condition did I realise that I’d been looking at it in the wrong way. It’s easy to be offended when we don’t understand something or can’t put it into context. I didn’t understand Vitiligo. Now, when I see people imitating my condition, I smile, because I understand that more people have started admiring my look and it’s not meant to be offensive. I’ve spent most of my life trying to be what I thought other people wanted me to be: dressing, speaking in a certain way, or behaving in a certain manner. I was so busy conforming to other peoples’ perception of me that I forgot who I was, and what I like and dislike. I’ll never comprise my authentic self again.