Sharon King was diagnosed with vitiligo at the age of twelve. As a dark-skinned girl in middle-school, navigating the diagnosis – and resulting changes in skin color – was a difficult task. After ointments and creams failed to treat the spreading patches, she turned to her family and friends for support.
Losing her pigment was “tough and confusing” at twelve years old. Sharon covered her spots completely once for a high school sports banquet but ended up wiping it off at the event. She didn’t look like herself with makeup on – and that was more important to her than hiding the spots.
One day, getting ready for her first school picture since she had been diagnosed, a few boys made rude comments about the white patch on her face. The incident sent Sharon running to the bathroom to cry. Seconds later, her friends busted down the stall door and encouraged her to put on a smile and take the picture anyway.
“I haven’t stopped smiling since,” said Sharon, who said the episode turned out to be a pivotal moment in her life. “Dealing with bullying and ignorance made me a stronger and more vocal person. It taught me the value of turning a negative into a positive situation.”
Today, Sharon has dedicated her life and career to supporting others in her hometown of Boston. She is a service coordinator and disability rights advocate for a non-profit organization. In addition, she is a board-certified high school sports official, private chef, and full-time mom to her ten-year-old son.
“I don’t love my vitiligo, but I don’t hate it either,” said Sharon, sharing that she became truly comfortable with her spots shortly before her 30th birthday, just a year ago. “It makes me unique and sparks my passion for helping others.”
Now, she’s putting her passion into advocating for the vitiligo community.
“I remember exactly what it felt like to be targeted for being different,” said Sharon, who can relate to the stories of bullying within the vitiligo community. “I had to do my part to provide support for people who are victimized for simply existing.”
That feeling prompted her to create Litty Ligo, an online community that provides support and awareness for vitiligo patients by sharing art, stories, resources and information. Empowering those with vitiligo to be “unapologetic” and live life to the fullest, Litty Ligo has expanded to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter since its founding in 2017.
“The emotional toll developing vitiligo takes on you is a lot to bear alone,” said Sharon. “It can feel like no one gets what you’re going through. I want to be the person I wish I had when I was in school.”
Simone Girma is an LA-based communications graduate working for NBC. She’s lived with vitiligo for ten years and has learned how to appreciate the story of her skin – something she aims to share with readers.