It was the morning of June 25 – World Vitiligo Day – when Lauren Reid uploaded the first photo to her new Instagram account and anxiously waited to see what would happen.
The post was the first of what Lauren hoped would become an inspirational project within the vitiligo community. Calling her account “Pigment & Paint,” Lauren had painted a watercolor illustration of her own vitiligo and was hoping others might let her paint them too – and share their stories. Within the hour, she had her answer as requests started to flow in.
Today Lauren has painted 32 portraits and has dozens more waiting to be done, with submissions coming in from around the United Sates and even from countries around the world. Participants submit their story and a photo or a few photos that show their vitiligo and Lauren gets to work, crafting the story and painting their portrait.
“It’s so important to accept ourselves and wear confidence,” said Lauren. “My goal with these portraits is to help others see the beauty in themselves and, along with the stories each person provides, help show others in the vitiligo community that we aren’t alone.”
A self-taught artist, Lauren really got into illustrating when she bought an iPad Pro earlier this year. The vitiligo portraits are created digitally using iPad Pro and Magic Pencil along with Adobe Sketch. And as a New York City native, the digital medium saves Lauren space in her small city apartment.
Lauren first got vitiligo 19 years ago, at the age of 12, when a spot appeared on her right knee and started to spread to other areas of her body. For a decade, she saw a dermatologist and tried almost every treatment available before deciding to leave medicine behind and focus on accepting it. It was solely on a whim that she decided to paint her own vitiligo one day, and turned to Facebook to share her finished work.
“The first painting I did of the spots on my own legs made me feel so good about myself,” said Lauren. “I had already accepted my vitiligo, but the painting made me feel proud of it.”
Receiving an overwhelmingly positive response, Lauren came up with the idea to create an account where she could do the same for others. Hopping on Reddit to connect with the vitiligo community, she learned that the very next day – June 25 – was World Vitiligo Day. Inspired by the timing, Lauren rolled up her sleeves, picked a name and launched the account not even 24 hours later with her self-portrait, personal story and a call for submissions.
“Reactions have been very positive,” said Lauren, reflecting on the feedback she’s gotten so far. “Everyone I’ve talked to has their own beautiful story to share. Each are unique yet relatable.”
And she’s right – scrolling through the Pigment & Paint Instagram account, you can’t help but feel inspired by the stories, shared one portrait at a time.
“I’m so thankful for everyone who has written and trusted me to share their stories,” said Lauren. “The more people are exposed and understand what it is, that it isn’t a contagious and debilitating disease, the less stigma and more acceptance society will have of vitiligo.”
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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.