Model Breanne Rice is Every Girl with Vitiligo
Looking through Breanne Rice’s Instagram feed, you would think the model and nutritionist has it made. Yet between the images of film crews and red carpets, you’ll find a different story – one that speaks to every girl with vitiligo.
LD: When did you first get vitiligo and how did you find out what it was?
BR: When I was 19, I noticed a white spot below my left eye which gradually got larger week by week. I visited a dermatologist who did a series of tests, and it was confirmed and I was diagnosed.
LD: What was the hardest part of growing up as a girl with vitiligo?
BR: The hardest part was accepting the condition – learning to love myself and not allowing this to affect my self-esteem or make me feel differently about myself because I have lost half of the pigmentation on my face. I used to do some modeling and now I have my own business and want to have my own TV show, and there is so much pressure to look a certain way. I found my self-worth was based on how I felt I looked. It was a lot of work to get my skin to appear normal, and I worried that I wouldn’t be successful or that I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t look like everyone else. I also have several food allergies and eat a specific way for my body. Stress can trigger this condition to spread to larger areas at any time. In fact, I recently went in for a scan and it appears I’ve lost more pigment. I would would rather focus my energy elsewhere though, instead of worrying about this condition spreading.
LD: What made you decide to take your make up off and embrace your skin?
BR: I wanted to share my own personal journey with women to inspire and encourage them to be confident and feel beautiful in the way they were uniquely made. Many women have an ideal image or standard of perfection that we compare ourselves to, and it consumes our thoughts and lives. If you’re constantly thinking ”No one will love or accept me until I’ve reached ‘blank,’” then you’ll never measure up. We all have insecurities, but you cannot base whether or not you feel good about yourself based on a standard of perfection. I spent my 20’s covering up my condition so that I appeared to have perfectly pigmented skin, and it consumed me. When I finally learned to love myself and accepted who I am, I gained confidence I had never had before. Now I want to help others do the same.
LD: Tell us about the first time you decided to go in public without makeup on.
BR: It was a gradual experience for me. It was hard at first because people would say things like, ”Did you go somewhere warm and wear sunglasses the whole time?” or ”Hey, you smeared your makeup on your chin.” So I felt like it was really noticeable and it made me self-conscious. I started out wearing sunglasses, and then if I had to run errands I wouldn’t take them off even if I was indoors. I remember one instance where I went shopping and I had my sunglasses on the entire time. Someone that I knew saw me and asked why I had them on indoors. I just said “I don’t have any makeup on.” Now I go outside without makeup all the time, and if people stare at me I say to myself, ”It’s because they think you are beautiful.” And I can be confident in that.
LD: How did your story end up going viral?
BR: I posted a photo to Instagram with no makeup, and wrote a vulnerable post about my own personal struggles because I wanted to help others who have dealt with similar issues. I started getting emails and calls requesting interviews with national press. Some of the biggest influencers for women’s fashion and health wanted to interview me.
LD: When did you find out it had gone viral and what was your reaction?
BR: I knew it would go viral when I started hearing from the press. I was overwhelmed with joy. My story has resonated with so many women dealing with insecurities, but these things aren’t talked about publicly. To these women, I’m speaking up and saying “Hey, we are all in this together, so let’s change our mindset and begin to love ourselves and stop wishing we looked like someone else.”
LD: Has sharing your story changed your ability to handle your vitiligo and if so, how?
BR: I can’t say that I never have a day where I am like ”Well, I wish I had perfectly pigmented skin.” However, coming forward has given me a confidence that I’ve never had before. At this point in my life, I would rather be a role model than a perfect-looking model or cover my face to appear that way. I want to be real, and talk about issues that nobody talks about, and have an impact on people’s lives in a good way.
LD: Do you still have days when you struggle to love your spots?
BR: Of course, but I don’t allow my mind to dwell there. I identify those thoughts, and I say nope, I’m beautiful just how I am.
LD: What is your advice for other girls with vitiligo?
BR: Do not allow your vitiligo to dictate whether or not you feel beautiful or confident. I understand the struggle – I dealt with hiding it for years – but once you learn to love and accept yourself, it’s the best feeling in the world. When you look in the mirror first thing in the morning, your first thought should be, “Hey girl, you look beautiful!”
Photo by Breanne Rice.
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.