April Mitchell Encourages Girls with Vitiligo to Talk about Their Spots
As the featured character in Different Just Like Me – and the daughter of the book’s author and illustrator – April Mitchell has been talking about her spots since she was old enough to speak. Now she’s encouraging other girls with vitiligo to do the same.
April’s spots first appeared when she was just eight months old and spread rapidly to cover almost half of her body by the time she was four. To help her be comfortable with her spots in school, her mother wrote the children’s book Different Just Like Me, featuring April learning about people’s differences. Since the book was published, April has been to countless book talks with her mom to help spread awareness about vitiligo and increase acceptance around diversity.
Today, the confident San Diego native is completely comfortable in her own skin – and looking back, she credits the way she was brought up to talk about her spots.
LD: Thanks for being with us April! Let’s start by talking about the book “Different Just Like Me” since that’s how so many people know you. What was it like growing up as the main character in a book?
AM: I don’t think I ever really thought about it like that actually. My mom had been working on this book since before I was in kindergarten, so it was kind of always a part of my life. It just felt normal to me. I would pose for the pictures, I would be there while she was drawing and writing it. So it was a thing that happened. Eventually I went to book talks with her and signing books with her. I still occasionally go to some of her book talks.
LD: Do you think talking about your skin from such an early age had an effect on your confidence?
AM: It did have an effect on my confidence. Being upfront about it and telling people what it is helped a lot. I don’t have to worry about it and it’s not always on my mind. Of course I have my days where I am less confident with it. But 98% of the time I’m fine with my vitiligo and I’m glad I can just be upfront and accepting of it.
LD: You’ve grown up talking about your skin, something that isn’t common for all girls with vitiligo. So how do you bring up your skin to other people? How do you talk about your spots?
AM: I generally only bring it up if it’s necessary to talk about now. If one of my students asks about it – usually with a “What’s all over you?” or “Did you paint yourself?” or “Did you get burnt?” – I just tell them, “It’s called vitiligo.” Then I make them say the name back to me so they might be able to remember it the next time they see someone with vitiligo. I also explain that it’s just like anyone else’s skin, but I just get to have two colors instead of one. Then I will let them touch my hand to feel that it’s the same as their skin. Honestly, it never really comes up outside of my classroom with the exception of a few small comments here and there.
LD: Have you also been involved with vitiligo organizations?
AM: I have worked closely with Jordan from More Than My Skin in the past few years. She puts together a bunch of meet-ups and photoshoots in the Los Angeles area, and I try to help spread the word as much as possible. Before that, I would go to conferences and events all over the U.S. and I have met a lot of people with vitiligo through that.
LD: So do you have a lot of friends who are girls with vitiligo then?
AM: I do! I’ve met most of them through Instagram. The rest are people that I met at conferences or events, and keep in touch via Facebook. It’s so nice to have so many confident vitiligans on my social media feeds to constantly remind me how beautiful vitiligo is!
LD: What would you tell a girl with vitiligo struggling with bullying or being confident?
AM: Just try your best to love yourself for who you are. Anyone who is going to make fun of you or put you down because of vitiligo isn’t worth your time anyway. It’s better to have vitiligo or something that points out what a jerk they are so you don’t even waste your time on them.
Find April on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/aprilcmitchell/.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Her first spots appeared on her spine when she was seven years old and today vitiligo covers her entire body. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.