Bri got vitiligo when she was 21 years old after going through a stressful time in her life. As a flight attendant, she felt pressure to uphold a certain appearance and started camouflaging her vitiligo and photoshopping her photos. Fast forward five years and Bri is telling her story – spots and all.
Years with Vitiligo: 5
LD: Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first get vitiligo?
B: I have had vitiligo for approximately 5 years now. It started out as small, faint dots on my fingers and face and has been spreading ever since. I don’t have prominent vitiligo on my face anymore, but the skin on my face is extremely sensitive and gets red from any exposure to the hot weather – which is difficult since I live in Dubai. However, my hands are dappled with vitiligo. I have a few tiny marks on my ankles and one on my knee. It is weird not knowing what areas it can spread to next.
LD: You’re right, it is weird not knowing what vitiligo will do next. Lack of control can be one of the hardest parts of living with vitiligo. How do you cope with that?
B: I actually spoke to my friend who developed vitiligo at a young age. She said she does not remember her body without marks, yet on some days when new marks appear, she finds it a little difficult to accept that. I try to think of it that way – our bodies age whether we want it or not. We gain weight, we get wrinkles, we get stretch marks and cellulite. It is part of life, and vitiligo is just one of those things. The best we can do is take care of our bodies and try to love ourselves even if it’s challenging to do so sometimes.
LD: When you first got vitiligo, you were hiding it. Recently, you shared your story on YouTube and Instagram. What inspired that change?
B: I think partially it was the fact that I no longer was a flight attendant. It was difficult to be in a job where your appearance is important. The flight industry has standards for manicures and hairstyles and a strict scar/tattoo policy. I felt the pressure to maintain that certain image, and would often wear concealer on my hands. After a little more than three years of jet-setting around the world, I quit the job because I needed a change professionally and mentally.
I was tired of covering my hands with makeup and always living in fear that people will notice. It was hurtful to admit that I have it, but I wanted to live freely and feel comfortable in my body. So back in December 2019, I started filming the video about my story that I shared almost six months later on World Vitiligo Day in June. I couldn’t think of a more perfect day than that to reveal my “big” secret.
LD: What was it like to finally share your “secret”?
B: Almost all of the comments have been extremely supportive. People were saying how they think it’s a unique gift, how no tattoo can do this, and how it makes me stand out. To be honest, I felt so emotional. Releasing the secret almost made me feel naked. It was a very weird feeling. While it didn’t actually help me feel better about living with vitiligo, it does feel better to stop hiding it and just be myself.
LD: You don’t believe anyone should be ashamed of their body – and yet you’re personally facing the struggle to love your own. What has that journey been like for you?
B: It was very hard and it still is at times even after I have shared my story with my followers. Just recently, I had a breakdown thinking about the fact that my kids might potentially have vitiligo because of me. I know it is not a big deal, and it’s all about the upbringing and the example I set for them, but I just don’t wish to cause them any emotional pain. That’s why I get anxious at times and think that maybe I should never have kids. I shared these concerns with my followers, and they said my vitiligo is beautiful and that I would be a great mom. However, I think only those with vitiligo will understand that vitiligo is deeper than the skin. Feeling insecure or upset about it happens even to the strongest of us. I don’t know what the future holds in store for me, but I do hope that one day I can be 100% comfortable with this skin condition. I am just not there yet, and it’s all an uphill process.
LD: Dating with vitiligo is a hot topic for those living with the condition and you mention telling your boyfriend about your vitiligo. What was that conversation like for you?
B: I have previously dated a couple of people who did not seem very compassionate and understanding. They were “weirded out” by the white marks, whereas my boyfriend was so supportive from the moment I told him. It took strength to muster up the courage to tell him about my skin condition because of those guys before him. I am so glad I did. I think the right person does not care, and he or she sees the beauty of your soul. Vitiligo spots only make you more unique and beautiful in their eyes.
LD: What’s your advice for others living with vitiligo today?
B: It’s ok not to know all the answers. The most important thing is to try to go deep within and try to understand what our bodies are trying to tell us and what is life trying to teach us. Life is a journey and it’s not always easy, but we have to be gentle on ourselves because our mind is usually our worst enemy. Find what you love and do more of it because that’s the way to feel fulfilled – not by trying to change your physical appearance. We are all unique and beautiful in our own way.
Erika Page is a blogger, speaker and self-love advocate with universal vitiligo. After living with vitiligo for two decades, Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.