She’s an entrepreneur at heart and has a plethora of titles to prove it—author, filmmaker, speaker, coach and Navy veteran. After getting vitiligo as an infant, Lid’ya C. Rivera spent years struggling to love her skin—until her breakthrough moment, shattering years of self-hate. Today she’s learned to love herself, and her spots, and is dedicating her life to helping others do the same as a confidence coach. Here’s her story.
Name: Lid’ya Rivera
Hometown: Melbourne, Florida
Years with Vitiligo: 36
LD: Tell us a little about yourself and your vitiligo.
LR: I’m a mom, advocate, filmmaker, coach and most recently, a published author with my new children’s book I Absolutely, Positively Love My Spots. I’ve had vitiligo since I was an infant. [I have focal vitiligo, so] it’s stayed the same for the most part. I have spots underneath my eye, and blonde eyelashes.
LD: You experienced bullying and name calling growing up. Can you tell us about a time you experienced that and how it made you feel?
LR: There are so many stories. One incident that affected me the most happened in early middle school. I was walking into a classroom and had a substitute teacher that day who told me to take the bandaid off of my face. Everyone in the classroom started laughing. I didn’t say anything, but I remember my heart was beating so fast and I wanted to cry but was holding back my tears because I didn’t want the other kids to see that. The teacher took a closer look at my face and then told me to go take a seat.
She never apologized. She never told the other kids not to laugh. So not only was I dealing with bullying and name calling from my peers, but I had an adult who had humiliated me and made it seem like it was okay by not correcting the other kids or apologizing to me. That was hard because I had to get to a place where I could tell myself that that was not okay. There wasn’t anything wrong with me, there was something wrong with her.
LD: You hid your vitiligo for most of your life—what was that like?
LR: Yes. So I have focal vitiligo on my face under my eye. In middle school, my mom wouldn’t allow me to cover it [with makeup] so in high school, I started wearing bangs and hats to cover that eye. As an adult, I started covering it with tons of makeup–but always still used bangs or hats to cover it too. I went to drastic measures to conceal the spots because I was so ashamed. I didn’t like my skin.
LD: Today you’re in a place where you love your skin. When did things start to change for you?
LR: [It started with] simply facing myself, facing the woman in the mirror. Facing that little girl [who had been bullied]. And not just seeing her but speaking life into her. Instead of saying negative things, I spoke life into myself: “Girl, you are amazing. You are beautiful. You are strong.”
A pivotal moment for me came in 2018 because I was tired of hating myself and I was also tired of altering and concealing my skin for the sake of others’ comfort. I was already uncomfortable. But I didn’t realize I was doing it for everyone else to like me. I realized I need to love myself first. I need to love this “me” and my skin. [When vitiligo model and Cover Girl Amy Deanna] went live with me on Facebook, for once I didn’t have makeup or anything covering my face. The response and support I received was so warm and welcoming. I was so amazed. People were so receptive and not just receptive, but inspired. I got so many messages and calls and texts from people who didn’t know I had it.[That moment] was the missing piece in my life. I felt like I was just existing and the moment I took off the makeup I became my authentic self—it was the most liberating experience. Which is why I’ve now dedicated my life to this advocacy and promoting self confidence and helping women love themselves and their “flaws.” Our bodies are our home, and we have to live in these bodies every day. Social media and kids can be cruel and they tell you what you should wear and how you can look, and those things can indirectly and subconsciously break you down. If you live in this skin, do you build this house up or do you tear your home down? I want to be the one to build it up.
LD: You have a powerful story that is certainly worth sharing—and you’re trying to get it turned into a movie. Tell us more about that.
LR: Yes, I am working on a film based on my true life story, titled Beauty Marks. Right now it is still a trailer but I will continue to advocate and push and one day it will be. [For the film,] I was adamant about being vulnerable and transparent [about my life.] People with vitiligo are normal people who go through normal things in life. For me, a lot of those experiences were because I looked different. The bullying and things I experienced broke me down in a way. When you don’t have high self esteem and confidence, you tend to get lost. I was really lost. Not only did I have this skin condition but I had these different things happen to me too.[The message of the film is] to love yourself and never give up despite how others try to break you–you may bend but never break. Your destiny is greater than your skin. We are more than our skin. We’re not vitiligo.
LD: You’ve said that writing and filmmaking are passions, but your true purpose is helping others. Tell us more about your work as a confidence coach.
LR: I love what I get to do through my coaching company. My way of providing support to women and teenage girls is to offer 1:1 coaching, digital products and more to develop them all around. [I realized I wanted to specialize in life coaching] while getting my degree in psychology. I loved learning about the mind and how we think and why we do the things we do. I founded my company Confidence BuildHer Academy in 2021 when I became a certified life coach. [As a coach,] I specialize in confidence building; [my own struggle with self esteem] helped me see that as my purpose and what I was supposed to do.
You can follow Lid’ya on Instagram.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.