Friday, November 19, 2010

Pursuit of Peace of Mind...

So, for the past two months I have been applying a bleaching cream to the brown spots on my face at night when I go to bed. Thankfully, this hasn't had the same reaction as the 14% Triluma that I tried out two years back. My skin actually hasn't changed at all with this new cream, except that in the last few days before the scheduled chemical peel I did notice a slight burn happening whenever I put the cream on (which I assume is a good thing).

On Wednesday (two days ago) I had the deep chemical peel. This is supposed to strip back the layers of skin and expose the fresh skin underneath which will even out my skin tone and reduce the appearance of the brown spots. Let me tell you, I never prayed so hard in my life for those five minutes that the solution was on my face! 'Burn' does not begin to describe it! As I've told my close friends, it felt like millions of red ants were crawling and feasting on my face. After that, I has to keep splashing cold water on my face and then pat it dry. You could see the frosting of my skin (which apparently is a good thing) and after a few minutes, it started to subside and just left my skin very red. Much similar to a roasted tomato.

Right now I am home and out of commission for about a week while the peel works its magic. It's Day Three and my skin is very tight (I feel like calling myself Botox Head) and glossy - much like a bad sunburn, which is exactly what my dermatologist said it would feel like. Of course it feels tighter if I splash water on my face, so I've been given a cream - imagine Vaseline to the power of a thousand - to slather on generously at night to ease the tightness. This makes for very messy pillows, I can tell you that! It also doesn't help if you move a lot in your sleep, and I often find myself waking up to my hand covered in the stuff from touching my face, or hair stuck to my cheek which is quite irritating!

All in all, I'm excited to see what will happen from here. My skin is very red and tender but once the dead skin starts peeling off (which should be by Day Four), I've been told I will have 'baby's skin'... yay me! Of course the pigmented spots will not be completely eliminated by this procedure but they will be greatly reduced. If, in a few months, once my skin is completely healed (with lots of sun protection - I'm on the strictest orders for the next three weeks) from the chemical peel, I feel the need to discuss something more permanent like Benoquin, then I think I will head back to the dermatologist upon my return from London and see how necessary that is. 

For now, I'm just looking forward to not needing to rely on my MAC makeup so much every time I leave the house - it has a tendency to grease up after a few hours of wear, especially in a tropical country like Trinidad! But, thanks to a very special person who thinks I'm "more beautiful without makeup on", I've been feeling a lot more confident, even with my roasted tomato face!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...

I've been contemplating it for weeks now. The little "tip-of-a-pencil" pigment spot on my forearm is now the size of a small mole. How's that for rapid? Not to mention the two little creepers that have appeared un-announced above and below my right eyebrow.

I contacted my dermatologist to discuss my options. Well, the truth is I only really have two options: live with it and see what happens, or de-pigmentation. So I'm making an appointment to discuss de-pigmentation really. No decisions on going through with it after discussion yet.

Scared? Me? To death. It's more the psychological decision that is bothering me - I used to cringe at the thought of someone choosing to bleach their skin, simply because when the option was offered to me at the age of 12, it felt like a rejection of my true identity. I know it's "what's inside that counts", but let's get real, the colour of your skin is a part of your identity as well. I mean, look at what the public did to MJ when I was going through my transformation, how could a decision like that not bother me?

So... I hope I have your support. And I hope nobody else judges me for this decision (especially those who have so ignorantly commented that I am 'rejected by the black community and will never be accepted by the white community'). I'll let you know how the appointment goes... Oh, and I would still want to keep that cute little constellation of three spots forming a triangle on my left cheek. I don't know why, but I like them!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Role Reversal...

I am not a hypocrite. I am not a hypocrite. I am not a hypocrite.

If you only knew how much I find myself freaking out these days when I see new spots of pigment appearing on my skin. They're tiny, unnoticeable, ridiculously small to the untrained, non-Vitiligo-recognizing eye... 

First it was my face... I accepted it, embraced my "freckles", learned to love them (am still learning), and then of course found MAC makeup and my life was transformed by how easily I could camouflage the newcomers, the intruder spots, the invaders who started arriving without warning. The freckles on my face are in constant fluctuation - some grow, some shrink, some fade. I learned to deal with it because I can cover it and it's not much compared to what other people have to go through.

And then, I got one or two little freckles on my shoulders. They're cute, I think they look like sexy little moles when I wear strapless or sleeveless clothing. They are also tiny, beautiful brown spots that I actually don't have a problem with because there's only a few of them and they are very strategically placed on my shoulders to look a little attractive, I think...

And now a week ago, I noticed a tiny, minute, looks-like-the-tip-of-a-pencil spot starting to form on my forearm. And the freaking out begins. In the past year it seems my skin has decided to reverse itself. People will tell me I'm being silly, they are only small dots of colour, it means nothing. But they don't know that's how it all started 20 years ago. Small little dots of white that meant nothing at the time.

I'm getting way ahead of myself and my thoughts are moving faster than my brain. Can I do this? Can I go through this natural ebb and flow of my skin playing tricks on me and deciding when it wants, without any consideration to my life and my wishes and my current state of mind, and how long it took me to get to this point of acceptance? Can I go through this... AGAIN? Another 20 years of my skin reversing itself, very possibly driving me to madness in the process and sending me straight over the edge of yet ANOTHER identity crisis?

Do I reconsider my thoughts on bleaching? And risk being labelled a hypocrite even though everyone should understand that things change, people change, opinions change? And that you never know a person's life until you experience it? Do I wait it out? Do I monitor the situation or take action now? Do I smile and lie to you guys, my readers, and pretend like right now it's fine and I can handle this and if my skin reverses itself, I'm going to hold my head high and go through it publicly like I did before and then be the same person at the end of it all?

I'm not a child anymore. This time is different. There is no bubble of protection like there was before. I have learned to rely on my skin to help me be who I have to be now... if it changes on me again, I'm scared to death that I will change as well...

Rambling thoughts of a crazy person...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Strength, Not Pity!

A quick one this week!

I had a little down time last week. On one of my down days, my father called from abroad and gave me one of those pep talks that I love him for, you know the kind that makes you feel like you can whizz right on up into the sky and take over the world? He is amazing at those.

During this talk my dad said something that stood out to me so much that I wish to share with you all:

"I built my daughter on strength, not pity!"

Wow. That phrase has stuck with me like gum on the bottom of my shoe. That's exactly what my parents did - they never pitied me or my condition... They never showed stress or anxiety in my presence because of what I was going through... They made sure that they were nothing but an example of strength and confidence so that I could follow suit and grow strong for myself when that time finally came for me to leave the bubble and comfort zone of 'Mummy and Daddy protecting me'. 

I think they did a good job. I remember my parents' way of making me strong, whether I was prepared for it or not. Dance class, netball, volleyball, tennis, piano, gymnastics, drama group, band practice... you name it, I did it. And the scenario was always the same: drop me off at the front gate, tell me to go and  have fun and I make it inside by myself... I talk to people by myself... I do it by myself. Scary, but it worked.

The number one instinct is survival... So thanks to my Dad this time, I'm back in the sky and taking over the world :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Little Girl's Best Friend...

I never have understood - and never will understand - people who do not like animals nor see the importance of animals in one's life. They are not only a source of comfort and protection but medically, having a pet has proven to do more good for a patient than treatment itself in some cases. I'm not saying that having a pet will bring back your pigmentation in the case of Vitiligo, but it can surely relieve any stress or anxiety that the condition may cause you. 

My Yorkshire Terrier Kaiso is now 16 years old (far beyond his expected life span) and has been on this journey with me since I was 8. The total acceptance and lack of judgment found in this 'best friend' can get you through some truly difficult times. It may sound a little cliché, but seeing the way our animals look up to us and treat us with complete loyalty, acceptance and trust in return for just a little love and acknowledgement gives us quite an example of how we should treat each other. I would most certainly recommend getting a pet for a young child with a medical condition such as Vitiligo - it gives us somewhere to go when everywhere else is too difficult. Just remember that a pet is for life.

Here I am at about 9 or 10 years old. Yes, I was an absolute little nerd :) I even had braces by the time I was 12! You can see the Vitiligo clearly on my forehead, neck and backs of my hands, even inside my ears. Long sleeves were also my comfort zone.

Monday, June 14, 2010

He Sees Me Naked

He Sees Me Naked – 16/05/2010
- Darcel de Vlugt

He sees me naked –
In all my glory,
With all my worry,
And he is not fazed.

He sees me naked;
Beneath my mask of MAC,
Without the camouflage I use to hide my issues;
Without the airs and graces and bells on my feet;
Without the self-impressions and self-opinions forced upon me by society;
Without pretence, without barriers, without boundaries…
He sees not my flaws, even though I am flawed,
Even though I am floored and awed by how perfect he is,
He sees me naked and to him I am perfect.
To him I am a breath of fresh air;
To him I am new and undiscovered;
To him I am Eve on the first day in the Garden of Eden –
The only woman in existence, his woman…
He sees me naked and he sees my spirit;
He sees my imperfections as mine and mine alone,
Making me as perfect and unique to him as a unicorn;
He doesn’t see a horse with a misplaced horn.
He sees me naked and he sees my fear of judgment;
He sees the need to protect me, to wrap those arms around me and take me away
To where I can be safe from prying eyes and suspecting souls…
He lends me his eyes so that I may see myself in them;
So that I may see me in the way that he see…
He gives himself to me because I let him see me naked –
Stripped of ornament and decoration, and all that jazz…

Just me.
Just plain old me…
And he is not fazed.

He sees me naked,
And were I to ask him to tell me what he sees,
He’d smile and reply that he sees me in a way I’ll never see,
He’d reply that he sees me
and therefore he sees beauty.

*Please do not copy or reproduce without my permission*
**Please respect my work and give proper accreditation if you use this material**

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Permission Secured!

Fantastic news everybody! I have received the permission from the Commissioner of Police to have the WALK FOR SKIN here in Trinidad... which means full steam ahead with support and donations for those of you wishing to join me or to help the cause even if you can't join in...

Sunday 27th June, meeting point opposite National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) by the Savannah, 4pm. We start walking @ 4:30pm! Wear either BLACK or WHITE please!

Please make sure you do whatever you can to really show your support as this means the world not just to me, but also to others with Vitiligo, eczema, neurofibromatosis, acne and other skin issues who will be walking or have friends walking on their behalf.

The money raised online will be going towards the British Skin Foundation who will then be using it to help develop medicines, treatments and cures for these diseases as well as provide support for people worldwide. It doesn't matter what country it happens in, the support for the cause is necessary as we can (and will) all benefit from the outcomes of research and treatment results!

Thank you for your support thus far, please go to the following link to support even further, it will only take as little as one pound (=two US dollars) on your behalf and anybody from around the world can donate:

Many thanks and blessings always,

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Lucky", You Say - Part 5

My friends have always been a major part of my backbone growing up, along with my parents and my brother. I consider them to be my family because they went through this with me from start to finish as well and still care about how it affects me today. They always tell me that they did not see my skin, and when they see pictures of me from back in the day it is as shocking to them as it is to me, because they were always concerned with the qualities that truly matter... that's how you know you have friends for life, I love them dearly and would not change them for the world. I always say: "Blood may be thicker than water, but some of my friends are like oil..."

Here I am at my eleventh birthday dinner in Pizza Hut with my closest girlfriends. It's been almost sixteen years of friendship! You can see how the Vitiligo has now started on my face. I think by that point my Vitiligo had been such a part of me for so long that I tried not to let it rule my life. I never wore camouflage makeup and only became 'addicted' to foundation, after I went to university, at the age of almost 21 - many sarcastic thanks to the assistant in Boots for meddling and showing me how to wear it! I guess as a child you don't really consider things like skin and appearance until people start pointing it out to you (cue teenage-hood) and making it important. Looking back on a photo like this, I can see that it was a lot more extreme to an outsider looking in than it was in my head at that time - I guess that's when you know you have good people around you encouraging you to do your best everywhere you can, because they never made my skin an issue.

You can also see my hair that is white near my ears and hairline. It would be another year and a half before I dyed my hair for the first time.

My eleventh birthday in Cyprus - like me, my friends all come from very mixed backgrounds and upbringing, those are the people I tend to associate with the most.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Lucky", You Say - Part 4

Here I am at my confirmation in Cyprus in 1995. We had recently moved to a new town called Limassol (roughly an hour or so drive away from Paphos where we first lived) and I had changed schools. It was the first time I was seeing my old friends since moving, as my confirmation took place in Paphos where I had done my First Communion.

I remember the first day of my new school, my mother wrote a letter for me to read out to my class explaining that I wasn't contagious or sick and that I was hoping they would still be friends with me regardless of what I looked like. I remember my voice broke during that part of the letter as I stood at the front of the class, and a couple of my classmates also started to tear up. I'm eternally grateful to my mother for what she did by making me read that letter out - immediately after class, a group of girls came up and asked me if I wanted to sit with them for lunch. Those are still some of my closest friends to this day.

You can see that my arms had almost completely changed (except my knuckles and fingers), as had my legs and torso. The Vitiligo was now making its way up my neck, soon to go into overdrive on my face upon hitting puberty. The white patch on my forehead kept growing and shrinking as you can tell from previous photos, which shows how unpredictable the condition is.

Aged 9 at my confirmation in Paphos, Cyprus

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...

Ah, summer! That time of year when coats and cardigans are packed away and the shorts and bikinis come out. Trips to the beach and foreign, exotic locations for vacation with friends and family… Sun, Sand and Sea…
Summer, the time of year that is also known as:

The bane of my existence.

This is what summer means to me, my friends… Please try to understand if you will:

No more long sleeves, no more layers, no more hiding the patches or the whiteness of my skin so that now, in the summertime, people can comment every two seconds on some aspect of my outward appearance...

… Of course everybody else is getting that beautiful creamy caramel tan that I can only hope for in my wildest dreams or imagination, the kind of tan that makes me only seem whiter when standing next to them. Which brings me to my next point: Summer, the time of year that the contrast between my skin and the rest of the world becomes so evident that on one occasion, someone had the nerve to ask me if I was sick or dying because I was “so damn pale”.

Even worse, there are those select people who say ridiculous things about themselves such as: “Oh my! Look how dark I’ve gotten! I look so black now after being in the sun all day!” as if that is a bad thing, while I stand there and only dream of what it would be like to have a tan… While I stand there mustering every ounce of self-control to not scream at them that they are lucky, to stop complaining about how dark the sun has made them. They went out without sunscreen on purpose, so what else did they expect to happen?!

Summer is the time of short skirts and sexy legs at parties – my legs, though they may be a nice enough shape despite being a little on the short side, serve a double purpose as fluorescent lightbulbs on any dance floor next to the chocolate, mocha and caramel pins of perfection that look healthy and toned. People with a healthy tan glow… Me? I just glow… In the dark!

Summer is hard. I don’t show my legs – too much white, too much pale, too much of a spectacle. I wear short dresses and skirts at parties with the rule that I always wear a light pair of stockings as well, never bare legs. That in itself took years to happen.

I loathe wearing makeup to cover my freckles during the day as it feels like my face is melting and I’m sure people can tell, yet I don’t have the courage to go without it when everyone else is looking so perfect and healthy from the glow of the sun. Trips to the beach are a menace; even when I do get in the water, my head needs to stay above it to avoid washing off my mask and looking like a clown. I much prefer to rent a beach-house or villa with a pool and go with a select group of friends who have better things to do than to mind my skin and how reflective or transparent it is.

Summer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… For some.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Lucky", You Say... - Part Three

I remember once after a ballet class, I was complimented on my "psychedelic leggings" by one of the parents. I was wearing a leotard only with my ballet shoes. My feet were one colour only, with the patches starting from my ankles up. 

This is probably an image you may have already seen, but here's the full photograph that has become pretty much a staple image of my experience in the media. You can see the contrast most here and my legs are almost completely white, with my arm now starting to change as well. I believe I was about seven years old in this photo.

Aged 7 on the beach in Cyprus

Don't forget to show your support for the cause by giving as much or as little as you can at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Letter From A Skinned Alive Reader

I get a lot of emails and messages from people around the world throughout the week, which usually spur me on to continue writing on the Skinned Alive blog. Sometimes a letter will help me choose what topic to touch on and sometimes, like now, the letter itself is too good not to share.

I was sent this last week by a reader and her letter was very touching. It helps to see things from someone else's perspective. She highlights perfectly what it is to be afraid of your patches and how vulnerable it makes you. Here's her story:
Hi Darcel,
Thanks for writing back to me a couple weeks ago. I enjoy reading your blog posts, as well as your Facebook posts on Skinned Alive. I wanted to share something with you that took place after I read your blog posts a couple weeks ago.

First of all, just to give you a little background, I have always felt very ashamed of my Vitiligo and have really struggled over the years to come to terms with it. I have always kept my patches hidden as much as possible and have struggled with self-acceptance on many levels. I also have really bad eczema, two different types, so it sometimes feels as if my skin defines me somehow.

My background is a bit different from yours. It was a bit unstable, and there was some abuse, which is what started my lack of self-acceptance. I was always told I was ugly and worthless....even though I really wasn't. I had beautiful long dark hair as a child, but I never believed I was beautiful. When I developed these skin issues, it made it that much harder for me to love and accept myself. No one in my family that we know of has Vitiligo, or eczema for that matter, which leads me to believe that my skin issues were the result of emotional trauma. If you think about it, our skin is the biggest barrier of protection against the outside world. The fact that I have so many skin issues tells me that my "barrier" has been violated and feels so vulnerable. I have slowly been trying to address some of these things from a holistic point of view (body, mind and spirit), and I am introducing a lot of compassion into my life that I've always lacked from others and from myself. I'm trying to 'love' on my skin and the many issues I have with it.

When I stumbled upon your blog and read every post, it spoke numbers to me. You said,
"Sometimes I let my skin matter to me more than it matters to others." 
Isn't that the truth?!! I have paid more attention to it than anyone else has. My husband has never had a problem with it, nor anyone else, but I continued feeling repulsed by it, covering it up like some horrible disease.

I found myself in tears when you said,
"My skin won't behave itself, so I sometimes feel like I am losing me, or the me I have learned to identify with.

I could identify with that SO much. For years and years my biggest fear was that my vitiligo would reach my face, and that everyone would finally see it and be repulsed by it. I was terrified of the idea of it on my face. I didn't care if it showed up all over my arms and legs, just as long as it stayed far away from my face. Unfortunately six months ago, I developed a patch directly above my left eye, and it is slowly spreading. I cried and cried when I first noticed it. It was my worst fear coming true and I felt like I was slowly loosing myself. I'm still scared!

I knew I needed to show this spot on my eye compassion, rather than doing what I have done for so many years....dodging the mirror with disgust and shame, hating every part of my Vitiligo. I was still struggling to show it compassion until I read your blog posts. I loved the quote by India Arie,
"I am not my hair; I am not this skin; I am not your expectations, no... I am not my hair; I am not this skin; I am the soul that lives within." 

After reading all of of your posts, I found myself standing in front of a mirror crying so hard ....feeling SO sad that I had been so mean to myself all these years. Sad that I had made it so much bigger than it really was. Sad that I had 'abused' myself by rejecting my skin, instead of loving it. I stood in front of that mirror finally able to look at myself and say, "I am SO sorry! I'm so sorry for being so mean and hurtful. From now on it stops! I will learn to love and accept you!"
It's been two weeks since that time and I am slowly learning to love myself...ALL of me. Not just my skin, but myself as a whole. For years I felt defined by my skin. It was as if I was walking around with a distorted pair of glasses on, seeing only the bad things in myself....things that no one else but me saw. I have been my own worst enemy. I find myself slowly taking off those glasses now and becoming 'whole.' 

I would love to be strong enough one day to be of some encouragement and comfort to someone else going through this. Right now, however, I am on this new journey trying to heal and show myself compassion every day.

My husband and I are currently living in Italy. I find myself traveling all over, trying to 'find' the me that I kept hidden for all these years. I want to know myself in a way that I have never known before because I was too busy beating myself up. Last week I went to Paris. This week I went to Venice....and who knows where I'll go next week. All I know is that I just want to let "LIFE" inside my heart and start living! I don't want to be that timid, frightened girl anymore. I want to be free to love myself no matter what I look like!

I love that you have learned to accept yourself from such a young age. I'm 30 years old and I feel as though I am taking baby steps for the first time in my life. I'm finally ready for healing and peace. I'm ready for a new start.

I also quoted Ann Curry when she said to you on the Today Show,
"Compassion and understanding is the road, and not separation and judgment." That's where I am right now. Learning to show myself compassion and understanding for the first time in my life!

I just wanted to share that with you since you've played such a big part in this new 'path' I'm on now. The only thing I wish were different about your blog is that you would post more frequently! :) I love reading what you have to share. 

"Lucky", You Say... Part Two

My Vitiligo spread to my arms and legs, then torso before taking over my face around the time of puberty.

Here I am aged 8 in Cyprus - you can't see my arms and legs, which shows how easy they are to hide (when it's not summer), but you can see my natural original colour on my face (except for the small de-pigmented patches at the very top of my forehead by my hairline)... This was just before the Vitiligo picked up the pace and patches started growing and multiplying. You can also see it on my knuckles and the back of my hand in the first picture.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

'Lucky' you say... - Part One

It really bothers me when people tell me that I am "lucky". I hate that word, mainly because the people using the word don't understand what it took to get where I am today and they don't understand that I am STILL with a skin condition. I did not suddenly wake up white one day (you wouldn't believe how many people think this is the case!) The journey has been a long and hard one, and I'd like to share it with you by posting up a photo once a week for the next few weeks for you to witness the transformation from 'black to white' for yourselves. 


Here I am less than 2 years old in my homeland of Trinidad... It has been pretty shocking for me to look at these photos as well, as I have not seen some of them for years and it really brings back a lot of memories!

Thanks again for your support and Be Blessed Always

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Important Update

I know, I know, it's been so long since I sent out a message to you all that it seems as though I have dropped off the face of the earth! Forgive me...

Actually, I've been working hard to try and secure permission to hold the first ever Walk For Skin here in Trinidad at the end of June... The aim is to raise awareness and bring attention to the people suffering with skin diseases who need a voice and a show of support for their ordeal... There has never been an event held purely for skin in Trinidad & Tobago so this will be a little bit of history in the making!

I have created a donation page where I managed to raise over 800 British pounds last year when I completed the Walk For Skin in London... This year I know a lot more people and I have set my target at 1000 pounds, which will go towards funding for research and support, cures and treatments for skin diseases within the British Skin Foundation and of course, the Vitiligo society...

I appreciate every bit of support you have given me in this past year, believe that :) Every message of thanks, hope & support has been read and now I would like to invite you to help me give back to people who are enduring similar experiences in their lives. A donation as little as 1 pound will go a long way, especially if each of my friends make a small donation, the target will easily be met and make a HUGE difference. In my opinion, we can pull together and raise a whole lot more than that...

I know a lot of people sit back and think that someone else will do it, but
it takes each person individually to make a collective difference! Please help me help others by heading to the following link and giving whatever you can (no matter how little!)

Thanks once again and Be Blessed Always,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Misery Loves Company...

There are a couple of young ladies I talk to every so often regarding their skin, and they are at that age where the world seems to be on your shoulders and nobody could possibly know what you’re going through… yes, they are teenagers.

Considering I was once one of those myself, I figure at my ripe old age of 24, I can muster up a decent amount of memories about my own teenage years to share some advice with them… Except that a lot of the time, I sit there in shock and am thinking: Oh my God… Is this how hard it is to be a teenager these days, let alone a teenager with Vitiligo? How did I ever get through it?!

We all know I had my fair share of name-calling – Spot, Dalmatian, Cow – but nothing prepared me to hear that one young lady was called a zebra bitch or that another had a fake tan gone wrong. There was even cruelty to the extent of the following comment:

Why does she even bother to come outside? She should hide herself away with that skin…

It seemed like nothing for me to go through it, it was my version of ‘normal’ at the time, but looking at these beautiful young girls and hearing them recite the horrible things that have been said to them was a huge slap in the face because I couldn’t do anything to protect them from that…

Bullying is a serious issue that still isn’t given the attention it deserves. Words can be just as hurtful as physical blows - you have no idea. I know of relationships where physical harm could never match the emotional and verbal abuse that was dealt. What scares me the most in speaking with these girls is knowing that in an effort to diminish the bullying they are suffering, or to fit in, they might go ahead and allow themselves to be encouraged to do wrong things, especially at this vulnerable age where you’re already trying to figure yourself out. Especially when others around you are doing the same.

Vitiligo is just one more weakness to add to the mix when you are a teenager. Unfortunately, many bullies will use this to their advantage, and, no matter how confident you are, or how comfortable you are in your skin, comments about it will always sting just a little. Enough harassment over the issue and you could easily be swayed to do something hurtful to yourself, your reputation or someone else in order to just be like everyone around you.

My biggest concern is those among us that have the power to influence someone in our lives and the way they treat others. We all have brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, friends’ children and godchildren even, who look up to and often look to us for examples of how to treat others. Let them know when they are wrong, teach them not to discriminate… 

Lead by example. 

Bullies are insecure creatures. And they know who they are…  
Deal with your own insecurity. Don’t try to make company for your misery by bringing others down. Don’t comment on another person’s misfortunes in a negative manner and not expect a young person to hear you or adopt the same attitude. We have a lot more power than we think that can influence others.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Source of Inspiration...

Last night, I was watching the Oscars. At certain points of the awards show, there were some intense emotions. The first being Mo’nique’s win for her supporting actress role - in the movie Precious - and the honesty and humility in her speech. But even more emotional for me was finding out that the most talented hairstylist I know and have also had the pleasure of working with at Fashion Week was actually responsible for more than one of the phenomenal hairstyles seen at the awards, including Cameron Diaz.

To say that I am proud to know you Omar Lopez is an understatement. To know that I had the chance to work with you and then to sit in my living room watching your work on some of the world’s most powerful entertainers sparked such respect and admiration within me because I’m sure this is a dream come true for you… And you’ve sparked a new dream for me as well after watching that. What makes it even more wonderful, as I have already told you, is knowing how beautiful you are as a person as well.

And this is where I get to the point of this post. I realized that I know, or have been in the presence of so many talented, driven and truly inspiring people. I know a lot of people who are working to make their dreams come true every day. The truth is, we all do. You don’t have to look very far and it doesn’t have to be fashion or Hollywood, but around you and within you there is inspiration to make your dreams reality. And it doesn’t matter where you came from, what you went through or what you look like… you might have Vitiligo… so what? I’m sure you have a dream, and believe me, that dream is far bigger than your skin or your skin colour. Which is only as important as you make it.

So… cut away the dead weight. Cut away the things or people in your life who have made you feel like you weren’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough or good-looking enough to do something you wanted to do. Cut away the thoughts that the way you look can stop you from being or having anything you want.  Cut away the men, or women, who judge you by your skin and have you thinking that you are unworthy of a successful and loving relationship because of it.

We all have inspiring people around us, the people who push us, and who have kept us going when we thought we couldn’t anymore… and the people whose successes make you hungry for more success of your own. Be grateful for them, appreciate them and keep them around you. They give you strength that boosts you when you’re not too sure how to feel about yourself or your capabilities.  And know that you are good enough.

That’s my point. 
You are good enough.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

OK... So What?

My first serious relationship happened when I was 17 years old. Until that time, I had accepted that I would never be like my girlfriends in the boys’ eyes. I never had guys falling over themselves for me the way my girlfriends did, so I did the next best thing and made sure I was as good friends with them as I could be instead. Growing up with an older brother in the house meant that I had a knack for being ‘one of the boys’.

Having someone actually interested in me was frightening to say the least. He had approached me on my 17th birthday, as I was on the dancefloor celebrating with my friends, to compliment me on my dance skills and my style. I remember I was wearing a black fedora hat tipped to one side, as always finding ways to mask my face and draw attention to my style and not my skin.

He was 6 years older than me, which at the time was a huge age difference. I couldn’t believe that this man liked me, but he persisted in asking me out for weeks to follow, trying to make a date and I kept refusing, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the age difference played a major part. I had never had a serious boyfriend, so naturally I was afraid that we would not be on the same level of thought. I was afraid of what my parents would say. And most of all, I knew that he hadn’t seen my skin properly because of the hat I’d been wearing. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide my Vitiligo from him and I didn’t want him to think he was getting a white girl when indeed I was anything but. I was scared to let myself like him.

Weeks passed, and in communicating we found out that we had a lot in common. Conversation was fantastic, he was friendly and outgoing like me and I soon developed a crush. Finally, I agreed to go on a date with him. To this day, that date is the most romantic first date I have ever experienced, perhaps because it was my first real date, or perhaps because he really stepped up to the plate to win me over. He took me out to Aphrodite’s Rock, a well-known landmark in Cyprus. We sat eating ice cream on a cliff overlooking the ocean, where a huge rock stands out of the water near the shore, rumoured to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love.

Again, because it was night-time - my friend, the Night - I thought he wouldn’t be able to see the spots on my face, and was nervous to tell him about my skin. I told him there was something he needed to know, which played a big part in me not agreeing to go out with him. I told of how my skin used to be dark, and was gradually changing to white over the years and had almost completely changed. I remember my voice was shaking as I imagined him jumping back in the car, taking me home and running away, never wanting to see me or speak to me again. I thought that news like mine would be too much responsibility for someone to take on and much more than they bargained for.

He listened to my story, watching me closely the entire time, and then… he shrugged his shoulders.

He said: “Okay… So what?”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Well…” I stuttered. “My skin could change back… or it might not. I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t know if you could handle being seen with me if my skin was patchy? I look strange…”

He looked at me like I was the silliest person in the world (which, at that moment, I felt like as well).

“What if I told you… that I don’t actually care what colour your skin is, or if you have more than one colour visible? And what if I told you that anybody who had anything to say to you about your skin, would have to go through me first?”

The feeling of relief that washed over me was indescribable. No one, much less a boy, had ever said that to me before and in that moment, I finally felt like I had someone on my side who wasn't obligated to defend me like family.

Our wonderfully fulfilling relationship lasted almost three years and we have a friendship that still stands today. And one thing I learned from that night…

Sometimes I let my skin matter to me more than it matters to others.

Think about it. Your Vitiligo is only as important as you choose to make it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


You are beautiful... Your skin is flawless...

These are things I try to say to myself when I look at me in the mirror. This is what I say to convince myself that everything is okay and it's not worrying me that there is a new spot on my face that most certainly wasn't there this time last week.

I have never thought of myself as beautiful. Never. Even now, when people say it to me, on whatever rare occasion that may be, it's not a word I would ever use to describe myself. It's hard to change years of habitual thinking. Attractive, maybe. I can see attractive... I pride myself on keeping my body toned and fit, loved my life in the dance studio, so even sexy is a definite possibility. But my skin tortured me enough over the years to stop me from ever using beautiful

And yet, when I look in the mirror, I repeat these affirmations to convince myself that that spot has always been there. It's not new, it's not adding to the multitude of tiny spots that I can identify on various parts of my body. Inside though, I am freaking out. Yes, it's only small now, but the point is that it wasn't there a few days ago. And I swear that the spot I noticed two weeks ago is now twice the size it was before.

What does this mean? Does this mean that my Vitiligo is better? Or is it worse? I'm so confused by my condition sometimes because I don't have distinguishable patches like other sufferers, so does this mean that I have an extreme case of bad Vitiligo or a good case of one skin tone, even if it isn't mine? Confused, confused, confused...

I went to a poetry reading the other day with some friends. At the end of the first session, a girl sang a popular song by India Arie called Video. I know the song well enough to sing along, but it was only when I started singing along to the second verse that the lyrics hit me like a two-ton truck:

When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me
Every freckle on my face is where it's supposed to be

But... but... every freckle on my face is not where it's supposed to be though! This is what a voice in my head started screaming and since then, I can't stop thinking about those lyrics. My freckles are changing every day. My skin won't behave itself, so I sometimes feel like I am losing me, or the me I have learned to identify with.

Skin. It's the first point of contact someone has with us. It's the first thing people see, it's how people identify with one another. In one way, our skin defines us. Sad, but true. I refused to let my skin define me as a person growing up, so I became talkative, outgoing, strong-minded and opinionated so that people would judge me outside of my skin and look past the patches to my personality. And then I became one colour and I adapted and learned to have an identity that included my new skin. And now, it feels like after years, I have finally adjusted with this skin that isn't mine in the first place - yet it is - and it's playing tricks on me again.

I keep thinking: Maybe I should stress myself out so that the pigment spots disappear or don't grow so rapidly.

How ridiculous is that? Stressing yourself out to keep the skin you've grown used to. It's ludicrous, but this is how my mind works with regards to my skin. Then I'm thinking maybe I'm getting pigment spots because I'm NOT stressed. Maybe, for once in my life, I'm at peace, I'm even possibly... happy? 

But then if happiness means no stress... and no stress means more pigment... and more pigment patches means I stress out about it... and stressing about it reverses the pigment patches (in my head)... but then I'm stressed out, so I can't feel at peace or happy...

It's a vicious cycle going on in my head right now.

I just wanted you to know that I still worry about these things too. My skin is 99% one colour and my life isn't any more perfect or my mind any calmer than when I was a overcompensating teen with patches. The spots on my face remind me that I still have Vitiligo, I'm not out of the woods yet. Not knowing when or where the next spot will show up is beginning to threaten the identity that I finally managed to accept.

I am scared too. But India Arie goes on to say:

But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen

Yes, indeed.