Diagnosed with vitiligo at age 21, Rumbidzai Mugabe has not only learned how to love herself more, but also how to find her authentic happy place. As a chef with an art background, she uses her creativity every chance she gets — whether with cooking, decorating her home or applying her makeup. She is a firm believer in creating a sense of community and support for those with vitiligo and has actively embraced the motto ubuntu, which means: I AM BECAUSE WE ARE.
Today Rumbidzai shares with us her journey of hope and happiness, facing challenges, and living her passion.
Name: Rumbidzai Faith Mugabe
Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe
Years with vitiligo: 8 years
LD: Hi Rumbidzai, it’s good to have you here. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
RFM: My friends call me “Cheffie” and my family calls me “Sister Boss.” My family life is very supportive and fun. We have our ups and downs but we are a unit that still has respect for each other. My work is my hobby so it’s exciting for me. I do everything and anything. I cook and make home deliveries, train and place chefs, and consult as a health and safety officer. I also work at an establishment that preserves organic vegetables and fruit called Scoff Master. In my spare time, I garden, take walks with my partner, clean, decorate the home, travel, and try new cookery techniques which will help bring me to the next point in my career.
LD: It sounds like your life is very creative and active. When did you first learn you had vitiligo and how did you feel about it?
RFM: March 2013 — and I didn’t really feel anything to be honest. I was more concerned about how my mom felt at the time because it affected her the most. My mom really just wanted me to be okay and still does. She wanted me to be back to normal.
It’s difficult to deal with people asking you what happened to your child, insinuating they know what the cure is and handle their constant suggestions. I felt like it overwhelmed her and she wanted me to have a stable support structure. She researched the condition considerably and did the most to encourage me. People still give unnecessary suggestions, but, to be honest, we all do not really care. My pillar is my family and friends that have always had my back.
LD: It can certainly be a challenge navigating unnecessary suggestions. What other ways has vitiligo impacted your life?
RFM: Well I look different, which means I get necessary and unnecessary attention. It’s really difficult to filter it and stick with the positive. I have always embraced my vitiligo. I have never been a person concerned about appearance and I genuinely have always had self-love for myself. It’s something I allowed myself to nurture, so it wasn’t a problem accepting the change.
LD: That’s a great perspective. In light of this, how has vitiligo affected your day-to-day approach with style and makeup?
RFM: For style I need to wear hats and caps often to avoid sunburn on my face. My makeup has changed drastically. I love that I can explore art on my face — having been to art school helps. In primary school, I went to Peter Birch School of Art. I use what I learned there to influence my cooking (@chef_rumbie) as well as my makeup. It takes a lot of precision and patience to make sure my mahogany foundation does not blend into my white patches! I have learned to enjoy doing my own makeup and feel as if I can do anything. My background has always helped me to be in love with myself unapologetically. Do I forget sometimes? Yes, but I usually get a light bulb moment sooner or later.
LD: I think many of us can forget to practice self-love from time to time. Tell us about your faith and how it has helped you.
RFM: With my middle name being Faith, it certainly has played a significant role in my life and moves and shifts within me. My faith gives me a warm feeling and sustains me. I have gone through so much with my physical appearance, but I realize the condition has nothing to do with my growth and spiritual covering.
LD: Absolutely. Faith-based spirituality certainly shows us what is true about ourselves. Have you found your ideas about life have changed since your vitiligo diagnosis?
RFM: Do what makes you happy. If something puts a spring in your step then do just that. I have also learned to control what I can — everything else will fall into place. I have always loved the skin I am in — even after vitiligo. It’s important for me to feel, believe and know I am beautiful.
LD: Very true. With this in mind, have you discovered any hidden gifts in having vitiligo?
RFM: Well, I turn heads and that gives me an advantage in business. It also helps to raise awareness about vitiligo and with networking. I have used my motto ubuntu, which means: I AM BECAUSE WE ARE. It has helped me to raise awareness and offer online support to those struggling with the condition and to educate those who do not have vitiligo.
I have found that horrible comments come from those who do not have the condition. Every year on the 25th of June I make as much noise as I can and continue to do so throughout the year. I am always open to answering questions in any environment. We have a support group on Instagram @vitiligozw where we are open to providing the community with knowledge and a support system.
LD: Would you like to share any final advice for those who also have vitiligo and may be struggling?
RFM: Get to know yourself, appreciate yourself, and love yourself. Be happy, the world can be a tough place. It’s important to find your happy place.
Carolanne Wright is a health and wellness writer based in Whitefish, Montana. When not clicking away on a keyboard, she enjoys traveling, trying her hand at a new recipe or hiking about in the woods with her daughter.