“People will stare, make it worth their while.” It’s one of my favorite quotes by Harry Winston, because his famous line creates both a reminder and a challenge for girls with vitiligo.
The reminder for girls with vitiligo
The first part of the quote is a reminder: “People will stare.” It’s so matter-of-fact. People are going to stare – it’s that simple. They are going to stare because its human nature and we’re curious beings.
And yet, I think the simplicity of the fact is exactly what makes it hard for girls with vitiligo. As someone who grew up with spots all over my body, I was stared at a lot. Being stared at hurts – it’s frustrating and embarrassing. It can make you angry towards people you don’t even know. You want to stare back and make a face at them even though you know it’s rude.
So while “people will stare,” and it’s just a fact, it can be hard to accept. You don’t want it to be a fact because there’s comfort in thinking that people might not stare. You want it to be up for discussion, something that can be changed. When you’re anxious about people staring at you in the summer, your friends don’t say, “of course people are going to stare.” Instead, they try to make you feel better by saying “no one will notice your spots.”
Harry isn’t quite so comforting – he puts it out there for us to accept, whether we like it or not. He knows that we need the raw, true reminder: people will stare.
So if we can’t stop people from staring, then what can we do?
The challenge for girls with vitiligo
That’s where the challenge comes in: “Make it worth their while.” This is the part that inspires me. Here we are, feeling all vulnerable because people are going to stare at us and we just have to accept it. And then Harry swoops in and gives us a challenge, an opportunity, a mission, a charge – to be more than just the girl with spots.
If this quote had actually been a locker room speech from Harry to girls with vitiligo, this is how I imagine it would have gone down:
“They’re going to stare so let them. You can’t change that, you can only change you. If they’re going to stare, then make it worth their while. Give them something to stare at – and not your spots. You’re more than just the girl with spots. You can be more memorable than just the girl with spots. WHO are you going to be? WHY are they going to remember you?”
Do you see it? Harry is giving us a stage. By the sole fact that we have spots on our skin, we’re going to draw attention from the people around us. So why not use that attention to our advantage? How many people get to have the eyes of the world on them?
Since we do have spots on our skin, we’re going to have to work harder to make people remember us for anything other than our skin. But that’s the challenge – to be more than the girl with spots.
This is our moment to speak, to act, to do something that is going to make the world remember us as more than the girl with vitiligo.
This is your moment – what will you be remembered for?
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.