With a bustling political career in the Delaware Statehouse, Madinah Wilson-Anton works hard to find solutions to the issues facing her community. She has also lived with vitiligo for nine years, having been diagnosed at the age of 19. During this time she has discovered what it means to be true to herself and how to make self-care a priority in her day-to-day life.
Today she shares with us a behind the scenes look at public life with vitiligo and the secret to her success.
Name: Madinah (pronounced: Meh-Dee-Neh) Wilson-Anton
Hometown: Newark, Delaware
Number of years with vitiligo: 9
LD: Hi Madinah, thank you so much for joining us. Can you share a bit about yourself?
MWA: I’m one of six girls and live with my mom, husband and sisters. I represent my hometown, Newark, in the Delaware Statehouse. In that role, I help my neighbors dealing with various issues and introduce bills to change state policies to solve problems. I like exercising and I lift weights, shoot archery, and play tennis with my friends and family. This past summer I started roller skating and pressing flowers too. I like to try new things and learn new skills.
LD: It sounds as though you have a very rewarding and active life. When did you first notice you had vitiligo and how has it shaped your identity?
MDW: I have psoriasis and at one point my medication was turning my skin white and then the pigment would come back. Someone with vitiligo asked me how long I had had vitiligo and I said, “Oh, I don’t have that.” But afterwards, I started realizing I had spots in places I’d never applied medicine.
I didn’t really care at first because it was only small spots and mostly on my hands. But within a year or two the spots had spread and people would stare, which made me self-conscious. I also worried that they’d spread to the point where I wouldn’t be recognizable as a black woman, which was really difficult for my self-image and identity. Over the years, though, I’ve come to like my vitiligo and appreciate it as just another thing about me that makes me unique.
LD: Many of our readers can likely relate. As time has passed, have you found your perception of vitiligo has shifted?
MWA: A little after I first realized I had vitiligo I looked into treatments to stop the spread. But a lot of them had potential for serious complications like skin cancer or they suppressed your immune system. I briefly looked into makeup and dyes to camouflage the spots but I decided that wasn’t for me. Now when I put makeup on, I emphasize my spots. It’s part of who I am and I won’t cover it up—except with sunscreen!
LD: We understand that you are in the middle of a re-election campaign. How has vitiligo affected your public life?
MWA: Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition which is often linked with stress. Politics is definitely a stressor in my life. Because of my autoimmune conditions I try to schedule downtime, exercise, and other activities to help bring my stress levels down to stay healthy. Being a public official has also given me the opportunity to bring more attention to vitiligo and the community of people who have it.
LD: Having lived with vitiligo for nine years, what words of advice would you like to share with our readers?
MWA: Sometimes people think telling you that vitiligo isn’t noticeable or that it’s beautiful will make you feel better about having it. But part of the trauma I experienced wasn’t that I had vitiligo, it was that my body was changing in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. For a lot of people, changes like this take time to come to terms with and appreciate. Struggling to accept the changes to your body is normal. Don’t let people tell you otherwise and make you doubt the validity of your feelings.
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.