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    Day to Day Life

    Sun Awareness Week 2017

    We all know just how important it is to stay protected in the sun, especially for us with Vitiligo. Since developing Vitiligo, my Mum has stressed the importance of using sun cream with the highest SPF. As kids, whenever we used to travel, both in the UK and aboard, Mum would smother my skin in sun cream before getting me dressed every day. She would always use factor 50 which, even though made me feel as though I was melting in the sun, always prevented me from burning or causing damage to my skin.

    As I got older and became aware that the ‘sun kissed look’ was preferred by the girls in magazines, I started to avoid sun cream altogether. I’d watch as friends applied factor 5 whilst on our summer holidays and convinced myself that just a little sun wouldn’t do any harm. When I realised that Vitiligo prone skin didn’t quite tan in the same way, I quickly learnt my lesson and reached for the sunblock instantly.

    Living in the UK, I’ve always brushed off the idea that the little sun we get will cause any damage, however I soon learnt that even the seven the lowest rays of sun can still have harmful and long lasting effects, even when hiding behind the clouds. Now, I always ensure that my makeup and moisturisers always contain SPF.

    So, what does the sun mean to us with Vitiligo?

    Due to the lack of melanin in our skin, our patches are more vulnerable to sunburn because we have no protection against the sun. ‘Normal’ skin is protected by melanin (skin pigment) whereas for us, our patches mean we have no natural protection against the sun meaning we burn alot quicker.

    To stay well protected, it is vital you use a sunscreen; as this protects us from the ultraviolet lights that comes from the suns rays. There are two types of rays; UVA (long rays) and UVB (medium length rays). To keep our skin well protected, an SPF of 30 or higher is necessary, especially during the hotter months.

    What does Sun Awareness Week mean?

    Sun Awareness week begins on May 8th and was introduced by the British Association of Dermatology (BAD) after a survey revealed that eight out of ten people are failing to apply sunscreen before going out in the sun. A shocking statistic considering the dangers around exposing the skin in the sub. Sun Awareness Week is about increasing awareness around protecting your skin, making sure it is applied properly and reminder that sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours for maximum protection.

    For more information click here:

    http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/sun-awareness-campaign/sun-awareness-week

     

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    Day to Day Life

    Winnie The Game Changer

    Three Years. That’s all it’s taken for Winnie Harlow, model, spokesperson and activist, to ‘shake’ up the fashion industry and prove there isn’t one type of beauty that is worthy of supermodel status.

    Correct me if I’m wrong……but three years doesn’t seem like too long ago, considering she has fronted international campaigns for Desigual and Diesel, made a cameo appearance in Beyoncé’s video for Lemonade, has given an influential Ted Talk entitled ‘My story is painted on my skin’ and has featured in adverts for major brands including Sprite and most recently, Converse.

    Still with me?!

    Last month Glamour Magazine hosted their annual Beauty festival where Winnie was invited to appear as a guest speakers. I knew she was likely to attract a crowd, so I didn’t ponder on the idea of buying a ticket (like I normally would!) and purchased a ticket instantly. After all this was a girl that was positively exposing Vitiligo, the skin condition I spent most of my life trying to keep a secret and along with her 1.9 million Instagram fans, I too, was fascinated by her beauty, attitude and her ability to disallow any negative judgement towards her appearance.

    Held at the iconic Saatchi Gallery at London’s Kings Road, I was thankful that the room where she would be speaking accommodated a small audience, after all the last thing I wanted, was to find myself at the back of the room stretching my neck to allow for a good view!

    With everyone seated and waiting in anticipation for her to arrive, Winnie soon emerged from backstage to a rapture of applause supported by a small entourage (as you do!). She looked effortlessly cool in a Stella McCartney ensemble which consisted of a white long sleeve fitted shirt that subtly revealed the Vitiligo on her upper body and olive drawstring wide-leg trousers. She was, as expected, aesthetically stunning.

    Walking eloquently on stage, alongside British model, Erin O’Connor, she was quick to wave and greet the audience with her wide smile. In that single moment, I didn’t get a sense she had adopted the attitude of a diva but what I did see, was a young, 22 year old girl with a positive aura that circulated the room instantly.

    Winnie has often been referred to as a ‘role’ model, something she has frequently challenged. Developing Vitiligo when she was just 2 years old, she has candidly shared details of what it was like growing up in Canada as a girl with Vitiligo. So when she talks about the taunts, the stares and the pressure to fit it in when being different wasn’t the ‘in’ thing, most of us know exactly what she means. Whether you have Vitiligo or not, Winnie is most definitely someone to admire, even though she adamantly brushes away any talk of being a role model. “The term role model means someone being imitated and I don’t feel like someone that should be imitated” she commented when asked. “I pull inspiration from everyone and am grateful that people feel they can pull inspiration from me’ she continued.

    Warm, honest and wise beyond her years, she spoke about being in the limelight and her hopes for the future. “I’d love to collaborate and work with beauty brands” She commented, before excitedly admitting she’d also love to be asked to walk the infamous Victoria’s Secret runway someday. Appearing on the front cover of Vogue or even Glamour magazine (to which a twinkle appeared in her eye!) was another thing she’d love to see happen in the future.

    When she isn’t boarding a place for another photoshoot, or walking the catwalk, like she recently did for Julian McDonald at London Fashion Week, Winnie likes to keep things casual in gym gear and sneakers.…which is somewhat hard to believe given her impeccable style choices. She spoke fondly about her family and friends and often calls upon her ‘bestie’ when she is away from home. She has formed a close friendship with model Jordan Dunn “who is from Sarf London” (as Winnie liked to put it!) and their similarities in that they are both of Jamaican descent, nicely connects two the beauties.

    Rumours of who Winnie is (or isn’t) dating is often a hot topic in the British press and when asked about potential crushes, she laughed easily before commenting that she thinks guys are ‘cute’, but until she’s actually met a guy in the flesh, its simply just admiration from a distance. She admitted to coming over all shy when she does spot that guy that makes her blush, a refreshing response that made me realise that, glamour aside, she too, has moments of weakness when it comes to dating and love.

    A lot has been said about Winnie trying to ‘distance’ herself away from consistently talking about her skin and whilst, ultimately her skin is the reason why the beauty industry is able to feel more diversified, I’m starting understand that not everything has to be about her skin. Her story of how she evolved as a girl with Vitiligo, has been reiterated so many times, that maybe now is the time to move away from her striking appearance and concentrate on her role within the fashion and hopefully, beauty industry. To have her be known simply as Winnie Harlow.

    With the final question being ‘what is beauty?’ she paused before eloquently explaining that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder – it’s a question that can be left open’ and with that she was whisked away, through the back door, to continue life as the Winnie Harlow the woman that is proof change is coming…

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    Day to Day Life

    2016: A Year of Real Stories With Real People

    In 2016, it was so refreshing to see more and more people within the Vitiligo community sharing their stories and opening up about the patches on their skin. Like many readers, I found these stories courageous, positive and inspiring. I loved reading how girls and women had overcome their fears of being judged and learnt how to embrace their skin. For me, it made me feel a sense of empowerment….connection even, as I felt so close to the stories which felt so similar to my own. Most of what I read ended with similar themes; women that learned to love their skin and finally felt beautiful, brave and most importantly, care free.

    One of the first articles I wrote was ‘Life with Vitiligo: my white skin cells started to attack each other’ for the online charity, Ditch the Label. Written by myself, it was a moving encounter on who I was as a little girl with Vitiligo, and who I am now. And even though I still feel an element of exposure, every time I agree to write a feature or share my story, there is something very invigorating about opening up and not being afraid to do so anymore.

    So with the stories of 2016 creating such positivity within the Vitiligo community, here are my picks on some of the influential and memorable stories from yesteryear….

    Teen with Vitiligo spent her life trying to fit in – but now realises she’s beautiful

    A courageous encounter from a teenage girl from Baltimore, USA, who later featured in the TV series ‘Too Ugly for Love’.

    Wonder Winnie

    An amazing 4-page feature detailing international star, Winnie Harlow’s journey. It was so great to see her featured in a mainstream, UK magazine aimed at women. Accompanying the interview were some great fashion shots, which really highlighted the beauty of her skin. Subsequently, I wrote to Grazia to thank them for the article and the following week I was selected as ‘Letter of the Week’ and bagged myself some lovely goodies from the natural beauty range, Lucky Cloud!

    Vitiligo sufferer who was bullied for looking like a ‘burns victim’ reveals how Instagram finally gave her the confidence to flaunt her skin patches

    Beautiful Cat Spedding from Yorkshire, UK, hid her skin under layers of clothes like most of us have done at some stage in life. However, after noticing just how much others were embracing their skin, with the support of others, she learned to love her skin and took to Instagam as proof that she no longer felt the need to hide.

    Young Achiever: My journey of acceptance

    The beautiful story of a young 15 year old girl, who wrote and illustrated I’m Not Unusual, I’m Just Unique, as part of her school project.

     “It’s called Vitiligo.” Woman’s poignant tattoo educates people on the skin condition”

    A story with a difference! Tiffany Posteraro, from New York, decided to have ‘its called Vitiligo” tattooed onto her skin after years of taunts and cruel bullying

    Michaela DePrince: Body image is a matter of opinion

    Not quite a 2016 story, but an awe inspiring, favourite feature to say the least. It’s the compelling and heart aching story of ballets beautiful star, Michaela DePrince, who was told she was the ‘Devils Child’ because of the way she looked.

    Do you have any stories that have inspired you over the past year? Feel free to share….

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    Day to Day Life

    Overcoming My Fears of Public Speaking

    I remember the first time I learnt about ‘Power Poses’. I was at a business networking group, London Women in Finance – Career Coaching Group, and the host had asked us what we would do to boost our confidence before a speech. Prior to learning about this new concept, introduced by Amy Cuddy, my answer would have been ‘have a coffee, stay calm, practice and pray’!

    So what exactly is the ‘Power Pose’ strategy that seems to have skipped past me without me realising?

    Well, some of it has a little to do with Wonder Woman and her ability to stand tall! Hands on hips, chest out and shoulders back. A pose that connotes power, confidence and increases your ability to deal with anxiety or stress….and the best thing of all, it takes just two minutes to do!

    So why am I telling you this?

    A few weeks back, I was standing in front of a small group of people, preparing to share my story.  I had agreed to give a speech entitled, How to overcome your inner critic, raise your visibility & get noticed at work and quite naturally, I was feeling a little nervous about addressing an audience. Seconds before speaking, I felt as though a Power Pose was what I needed!

    Although I’ve spoken publicly on a number of occasions, I’ve never managed to become a fan of public speaking, even though the reaction by others has always been positive. I’ve always felt as though its something I’ve wanted to master and so watching Ted Talks, an initiative set  up to spread ideas in the form of short presentations, has helped me understand and observe how to address a sizeable audience and the art of keeping an audience engaged.  Its a great source of information for anyone looking to improve their public speaking skills.

    The event, where I was speaking, was held at an intimate private venue in Angel & Islington and was an opportunity to share my past experiences with Vitiligo, whilst bringing some focus around being different in the workplace and the challenges with adjusting to a new working environment.

    An interesting Q&A session followed, which raised some insightful questions, mostly around how i’d gone from being an overwhelming shy woman to someone who was able to address an audience about something that was once very personal. The few months I had to build my speech and prepare, was an interesting experience as I was conscious about engaging my audience and giving them something that was ultimately thought provoking. I adopted tactics often used in public speaking and focused on being prepared and how to eliminate the potential arrival of nerves of the day….

    Plan and Practice

    The most obvious tip of them all! I was practising for weeks leading up to the day. I didn’t want to rely on a scripted piece of paper. I wanted to present my story naturally, after all, it’s one in which I should be comfortable telling! Feeling prepared makes you feel confident and helps with keeping nerves at a distance when its time to stand before your audience.

    Engage your audience

    Keep your listeners at the forefront of your speech. Include them. Engage them and evoke interest in your topic. Whilst you may ultimately be speaking about yourself, try and tie sections in with your audience to keep their attention. Open with a general scenario that they could find themselves in. Make it so you can potentially persuade them to do something they may not have done before. If you can bring them round to your way of thinking it can be incredibly empowering.

    Write key words on index cards and don’t be strict about sticking to it!

    Key words can act as simple prompts during the speech. Key words helped me avoid the temptation of reading from paper, line by line. After I had got past my first index card and felt like my speech was flowing, I stopped looking at the cards and was pretty much able to deliver without too many glances at the cards before me.

    Record your voice (great apps on the iPhone!) to judge pace

    Nerves can often make you race through something, because all your thinking about is the ending, rather than living in the moment and addressing the audience in a calm manner. Im always conscious of my need to slow down to ensure I come across clearly. Whilst speaking slowly doesn’t come naturally to me, it’s incredibly important you speak at a good pace. It’s more engaging, allows you to be more expressive and makes you feel more relaxed throughout.

    Arrive at the venue early

    Im terrible with lateness and im often the one hanging my head in shame as I give my apologies for being 10 minutes late! But when it comes to attending a networking event or presenting, I make sure im at least 10 minutes early. There is nothing worse than rushing to  an event in panic mode, as it completely throws you off course. To feel relaxed you need to arrive relaxed. Your journey to the venue can either be going over speech material or simply a peaceful journey to gather your thoughts.

    Treat yourself to something beforehand.

    I’d never turn down the chance to treat myself! Im not saying run out and buy yourself a new Karen Millen dress or a piece of fine jewellery, but something small that you can enjoy beforehand. Mine is definitely a latte! Apart from being calming, it’s nice to look forward to something especially if you’re feeling nervous.

    The event organiser, Philippa Ibe, very generously gave me a testimonial on my deliverance:

    What I loved about Natalie’s talk is that it was fresh and real. She shared a unique yet relatable story covering themes such as body confidence and self worth. Her story is truly inspirational, moving and a real joy to see her grow into her own as a speaker. I look forward to seeing more of Natalie giving talks”.

     

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