In 2012, the hashtag #vitiligo was just starting to surface on Instagram. California natives April Mitchell and Armando Silva were both following it, looking for people that shared their skin condition. April, who got vitiligo when she was eight months old, had grown up with a mother who was super active in the vitiligo community – naturally, she was too. Armando, who got vitiligo when he was eleven, didn’t know anyone else with vitiligo growing up. They were both looking for community – and found each other.
Fast forward to 2014, and vitiligo brought them together again – this time in person, at a vitiligo meet up hosted in Los Angeles. A few weeks later, the couple had their first date, chatting about their experiences with vitiligo over donuts in San Clemente. It would be their first of many.
Vitiligo brought April and Armando together – but love has kept them together. Here’s their story.
LD: The two of you are not only amazing people individually, but a beautiful couple. You met because of your vitiligo, but what initially attracted you all to each other?
AS: I thought that she was breathtakingly beautiful, seemed very kind and sweet.
AM: From following him on Instagram for all those years, I could tell he was a fun-loving, adventurous, creative guy and I knew that we would get along. It helped that he was cute too.
LD: What’s like life today for the two of you?
AM: We are now living together in Long Beach. Armando has a wedding photography business and stays busy with that on the weekends when he’s not at his 9-5. And I am in school getting my BFA in Illustration and am about to graduate and start working as a freelance illustrator.
LD: And when you’re not working?
AS: When we are not at work or school, we like to find cool new spots in LA to take photos and eat good food. We love to explore Los Angeles together, go to the movies, watch new shows, have photoshoots and find new ice cream shops to try.
LD: Obviously what’s unique about your relationship is that you both have vitiligo. What’s that like?
AM: It’s honestly pretty normal. It’s not something we think about too often, it just became a normal part of our lives. The only time we really think about it is when we meet new people who are curious how we found each other or the occasional moment that someone stares at us for a bit too long. Even then my brain doesn’t go right to the fact that we both have vitiligo. Sometimes it takes me a minute to remember that fact.
AS: I feel like it’s not really a big deal when we go out in public together. We don’t really get too many stares. That could just be the fact that we live in LA and people are used to seeing people that look different, or it could just be that we just don’t notice the stares when they happen.
LD: Your stories about growing up with vitiligo couldn’t be more different. Tell us about more about your experiences and what it’s taught you today.
AS: Growing up, I didn’t know anyone else that had vitiligo. There was no Instagram or Facebook or any type of social media. So, I was a lot more self-conscious about it. I struggled with it for a really long time. I don’t think I stopped covering it until after high school when I dated my first girlfriend and my vitiligo was never a thing that she commented on. Seeing that I was loved, spots and all, helped me overcome that insecurity.
AM: My mom was always super active in the vitiligo community from an early age. She would bring me to vitiligo conferences, and I had vitiligo pen pals. She even wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Different Just Like Me about how we are all different. That was a big part of my childhood. I don’t know how I could’ve possibly been more involved in the community. It really helped my feelings about my skin. I have always been okay with my spots. Of course I had the occasional sad day about it, mostly in middle and high school, but I think everyone has those days around then. But I really believe that the only reason I can be so okay with my skin is all thanks to the countless hours that my mom put in to making me feel like I belonged.
LD: So how do you feel about your vitiligo today?
AM: We’re both comfortable with our vitiligo.
AS: Agreed. We were both confident with it before we met, but I think seeing vitiligo on someone you love and think is beautiful really helps to be able to see your own vitiligo as something beautiful as well.
AM: I know he’s there to talk to if I have a weird interaction with someone, or if I’m feeling less confident. And he knows the same about me. It doesn’t happen too often, but we know we have someone there who will understand if we need to vent.
LD: Is there a benefit to dating someone else who has vitiligo?
AS: In a way I don’t think that the benefit is to each other, but rather to the vitiligo community. It’s nice to be able to share our different perspectives with others. It allows us to get out there and connect to people of different walks of life with different upbringings. We are both able to understand where people are coming from and we can both weigh in with different advice or different experiences. And we’re definitely both more aware of the effect that the sun can have on us, so we watch out for each other when were outside for long periods of time.
AM: We are at a point where we don’t really think about our vitiligo much. But yes, the sunburn thing…that’s a good one.
LD: What would be your advice for others dating with vitiligo?
AS: People don’t care about vitiligo as much as you think they do. So just be you.
AM: Right. The people who are going to act weird about your vitiligo aren’t the people you want to be with in the first place. In that way, vitiligo can actually be a kind of jerk filter. You’ll see peoples’ true colors faster than you would if you didn’t have vitiligo.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. 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.