From guest writer Twinki
So, I wasn’t going to write this blog post today but then the cover for Pharrell’s album “GIRL” leaked out and it blew up because there are no dark-skinned women on there and part of the “discussion” on them thar Twittuhs is that lightskinned black people aren’t black enough. Well, what happens when one was born darker than a paper bag and changed to be lighter than clear? Are we still not black enough? That’s my story and you’re going to sit down and read part of it because…I’m Twink and that’s what I said you’re going to do.
I won’t bore you with the details of my life but I will say that when I was born, I was all brown baby goodness. It first started when I would get cuts and the skin would heal white instead of brown. Then the white spots around my mouth started. The dermatologist told my mother I have vitiligo and there wasn’t really much they could do for it because I was only like 6. I just had to deal – and deal I did. Discovering I have vitiligo in preschool wasn’t a traumatic deal – it became more traumatic the older I got. The names started and continued – spotted cow; burnt toast, etc. I chose not to hide behind makeup because in 3rd grade, Dermablend was extremely heavy and I didn’t like how I looked with it. I wasn’t used to my face being one color. So, I dealt with it and the changes I would go through. One year my face could be brown, the next year I could have a white face, the year after that I could be brown with white around my eyes and look like a crazy superhero mask – the dermatologist called it “raccoon eyes”. Eventually when I got to college, I decided to stop caring about it and what others thought me. Ironically, I think that’s when I started to even out to become the halogen colored heffa you see before you.
Vitiligo affects about 1% of the world’s population. To put it in perspective, there have been 24 reported cases of measles in 2014; I have not seen 24 people with vitiligo ever – I think I’ve seen, at most, 4 people with it, not including myself. When I would see someone else with it, I went out of my way to at least say hi because we may never see another person with vitiligo again and it was nice to not feel so alone, even if for only a few seconds. When I evened out, I was content with just passing as your normal, average, and every day light-skinned girl that was born like this but then something happened. One day, I discovered a brown spot on my face. I found a dermatologist who specialized in skin disorders and made the first appointment that I could. She looked at my spot, called it a freckle and sent me on my way. I went back about 2 months later because it was gone. She told me “I’m changing my diagnosis of it being a freckle. I think your skin was trying to repigment but failed”. Something clicked and made me decide to start talking about vitiligo as it related to me. Be proud of it. Acknowledge that I have it. So I did. I started hashtagging my pictures on Instagram. But I never clicked on the hashtag until about a year ago, when someone commented on one of my pictures that she has a friend who had vitiligo and the pain/insecurity it caused her. She showed her friend my pictures and that helped her start to come out of her shell and she was grateful for that. As someone who grew up without social media, seeing people flourish with vitiligo is amazing. I wish I had this growing up. I decided to I wanted to start speaking about my experiences with it in hopes that I could reach someone else. Then someone brought to my attention Chantelle Young. She is a model with vitiligo who, I believe, will be participating in the next cycle of America’s Next Top Model.
DO YOU KNOW HOW THIS CAN CHANGE LIVES!?
Black people in general complain about not seeing people like them on the TV screen or in media, but at least you will see yourself at some point. You will see a dark-skinned person; you will see a mixed race person. Outside of that one male reporter (I can’t remember what city he’s from but he wears makeup to hide his vitiligo) YOU WILL NEVER SEE VITILIGO ON YOUR TV SCREEN. YOU WILL NEVER SEE SOMEONE WHO IDENTIFIES AS BLACK AND HAS VITILIGO ON YOUR TV SCREEN. It wasn’t even something that I thought could or would happen until it was brought to my attention. Finally, there is someone that looks how I looked on TV. For once, there is someone who can bring vitiligo to a national platform. I may never see it again but she will be there for this one moment in time. Giving others hope and courage that I faked until I actually made it. Finally – there is a 1% that will be represented, even if only for a few episodes. Even having had it for so long, she has been an inspiration to me and made me think that I could possibly be a model (our very own Amber also put the thought in my head). Is the world ready for a plus-sized model with vitiligo – I doubt it. But Chantelle has let me know that it can be a real possibility. I’m sure she has done the same for other girls/boys/men/women with our condition. Chantelle Young – you go girl.