Arésé Pollard was eleven years old when the first spot of vitiligo appeared around her left eye. Today the incurable disease covers ten percent of her body, including her face, hands, neck, stomach and elbows. The white patches were something that she had considered a curse at one point – a disfigurement even.
But that’s not what the 33-year-old London native was thinking about on a bright, sunny Sunday this past August. She had moved past her insecurities with her skin – that she was sure of. But more importantly, it was one of the biggest days of her life. She was about to say “I do” to her best friend, and there wasn’t room for thinking about much else.
“I didn’t think about my vitiligo once that day,” said Arésé. “My husband does not really even see or consider my vitiligo and for that reason, we do not talk about it much. He loves me for who I am and that’s a big part of why I am so comfortable with it.”
The beaming couple met as students at Imperial College in London where they happened to be living in the same university hall. Forming a quick friendship, the two went on to date other people for almost a decade before they decided to start a romantic relationship themselves.
“We were always very close,” said Arésé. “I have loved him for all of my adult life, first as a best friend and now as a dear husband too.”
A year and a half later, he popped the question in the gardens of Monet’s house in Giverny, France.
“He got down on one knee and said, ‘This is the sight of the most beautiful painting that I have ever seen and you are the most beautiful woman that I have ever seen. I have loved since I met you and I love you more each day. Will you marry me?’ It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining brilliantly and the gardens took my breath away. I cried profusely and accepted without hesitation.”
Did her vitiligo ever come up in the wedding planning? Only when meeting with the makeup artist for a hair and makeup trial, said Arésé, who decided to cover only the spots on her face and neck.
“My father, who also has the condition, described my vitiligo as character building,” said Arésé. “I think he was right! Now I think about it only infrequently and I see it as just another part of me.”
On Sunday, August 27 of this past year, the couple tied the knot at Coworth Park in Ascot, England. A wild meadow ceremony celebrated the nuptials, followed by a champagne reception in the rose garden, ballroom dinner, sparklers on the lawn and a funk bank that kept the celebration going early into the next morning.
Inspired by Arésé’s engagement ring – which features a blush pink stone – and the couple’s love of contemporary art, the wedding décor and details illustrated a delicate mix of both. Blush pink and white dresses and flowers took the stage while the table plan was creatively designed after the water lilies in Monet’s garden. Guests were placed at tables named after contemporary artists and enjoyed reading about favorite works and quotes.
It was the perfect start to this bride’s happily-ever-after – spots and all.
“Winnie Harlow has certainly demonstrated that it does not stop a person from having beautiful skin. I think she is an important and inspiring icon for black women and all people with vitiligo.”
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.