"Can I still live with vitiligo and be successful? Hell, yes,"
Continuing with my previous topic about the increasing number of helpful vitiligo blogs and stories out there, I’d like to mention one that I spotted this week on YouTube and that I found genuinely inspiring, despite the fact that it is part of an advertising campaign. The vitiligo “confession” features a wonderful young woman called Cheri Lindsay, a college volleyball coach whose beauty, confidence and common sense shine through this short video in which she demonstrates that she is not afraid to reveal her vitiligo to the world but has chosen to help others to see past it in daily life by using #camouflage (in this case, Dermablend Professional – which evidently does a fantastic job of matching her deep skin tone).
For many vitiligo sufferers, “to hide or not to hide?” is a big question – psychologically and even morally. Psychologically, it is not easy to deal with an unwelcome, unexpected and unpredictable transition from “normal” to “disfigured”, especially when all the doctors tell you there is no cure. So, covering up is an obvious coping strategy. If you can hide your white patches you don’t have to put up with people staring at you or asking you if you have a contagious disease. You can also pass a mirror or a shop window without constant visual reminders of your condition. In short, camouflage enables you to avoid the unwelcome attention of others and also, to some extent, it enables you to forget about your vitiligo for a while yourself and get back to living your life. However, there is the opposing view (and this is where the moral issue sometimes comes in) which says that camouflage can be a cop-out.
Personally, I always did everything I possibly could to keep my vitiligo a deep, dark (or should that be light, white?) secret. But that was before the days of reality TV, internet video and social media, long before the world became accustomed to all and sundry baring their soul and sharing the intimate details of their lives with the rest of the planet. Now that this is an acceptable norm, I feel a little guilty for not “coming out” until after my vitiligo had started to disappear. After all, if more of us had stood up to be counted sooner, vitiligo would have grabbed headlines earlier. Maybe, if vitiligo had received greater publicity decades ago, people would not have been so quick to believe that #MichaelJackson was deliberately bleaching his skin expressly to deny his ethnicity, maybe more research money would have gone into finding a cure, and maybe fewer people would be having to deal with the psychological, practical and social consequences of living with this poorly understood skin condition.
Coming full circle, Cheri Lindsay, whose father also has vitiligo, (see her Beauty Icon interview here) is someone who seems to have made sense of this dilemma and concluded that you can be open about your vitiligo as well as conceal it, and both for very good reasons. In making her vitiligo public and championing the cause so effectively, she is providing inspiration to many vitiligo sufferers around the world, educating those who don’t know what it is and, hopefully, helping to attract the attention of research and funding bodies. But it seems to me that she is also pragmatic: she understands that human nature is what it is. She knows that you can’t expect people not to focus their attention on something as eye-catching as big white patterns on a beautiful, brown face. She realises that this is inevitably a barrier to everyday activity and communication. So she chooses to use camouflage in order to remove that barrier. I think she is a very wise and strong woman and has made a decision that is right for her and that answers the question “to hide or not to hide” in a very positive way.
My name is Caroline.