The Story On My Skin… My blog - Personal Experience Archives – My blog
Follow:
Browsing Category:

Personal Experience

    Personal Experience

    BARING ALL WITH LOVE DISFIGURE

    As someone with a skin condition, there was a time when I hated the idea of a beach holiday. The thought of couples strolling along the beach, women with ‘beach ready bodies’ and attracting stares that questioned why my skintone wasn’t typically mixed race, was enough to make me board a plane to New York rather than the Seychelles. It was only later, when I entered my thirties, that my attitude started to change as I realised just how much I was missing out on, because I was too busy worrying about what others thought of me.

    Earlier this year, I stepped (actually make that leaped!) outside my comfort zone and took part in a swimwear photoshoot set up by burns survivor Sylvia Mac, the founder of Love Disfigure and passionate campaigner for diversity within the fashion industry. Sponsored by swimwear brand, Swimwear 365, Sylvia chose 20 inspirational models, all with their own unique stories, with the vision of celebrating and bringing recognition to those with visible scars and skin conditions such as Vitiligo and Psoriasis.

    When Sylvia initially asked me to take part, I was apprehensive. Would I really be comfortable being photographed in my swimwear? Was I mentally ready to take part in a campaign that could go global and which would be heavily promoted across the media? I was uncertain because a tiny part of me still felt like the 15 year old that mostly wanted to disguise her skin rather than show it. Nevertheless, after giving it some thought and the importance of body positivity and embracing who we are regardless of how we look, I excitedly agreed to take part.

    The shoot, which took place at a North London leisure centre, was captured by photographer, Sophie Mayanne who is also the creator of the highly successful, Behind the Scars project. When I arrived, I instantly recognised some of the other models, not because i’d met them before, but because I’d read their courageous stories perviously in the press. In an instant, conversations started and everyone started exchanging stories that echoed strength and survival, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the positivity which quickly put me at ease with showing my body in swimwear.

    It didn’t take long for the official photo launch to come round. Taking place at a London venue, I’d not seen any of the photos and so had no clue what I looked like and to be honest, I was now more concerned about my unpredictable curly hair rather than my skin! Ultimately, I didn’t know whether I’d hate how I looked in front of the lens or if I’d be blown away! There were constant streams of people arriving at the auditorium to show support for the campaign, including ex Olympic swimmer, Sharon Davies. Sylvia opened with a moving speech about how she had conquered her own personal battles, after an accident involving boiling hot water which left her with scars on her back and various other parts of her body at the age of 4, followed by a beautifully edited clip of some of the photos captured on the day.

    As the reality of each photo revealed itself, my mind drifted back to those stories I’d learned about on the day of the shoot. It was then I realised just how proud I was of myself and all the other models that had taken part. The stories of those that had experienced difficult times, the struggles of acceptance and most importantly, being survivors of the path that had been put before them.

    Thankfully, I loved every single photo. They were incredibly natural. The swimwear design and colour complemented my skintone and my bright red lips worked well against my loosely hanging curls.

    Since its launch, the campaign has been praised across the media, featuring in The Independent, The Sun, The Daily Mail and Women’s Health Magazine. Some of the models have also featured on This Morning, modelling this years hottest swimwear looks. It really feels like change is coming and its most definitely better late than never….

     

    Share:
    Personal Experience

    6 Reasons why Vitiligo Shouldn’t Come Between You & Your Date…

    Ah! Dating! That wonderful topic that could consume an entire night during a dinner catchup with friends! From bad dates, to blind dates to the amazing dates that lead to marriage proposals after 6 weeks (it happens!), dating isnt dating if you havent got a good few stories to share….

    But what does dating feel like when you have a skin condition such as Vitiligo? For some it may overshadow the entire experiecnce, altering what we choose to wear and possibly, how we come across. I recall occassions where i’ve been on a date, having flitatious conversation, enjoying the type of company that makes you forget you’re in a public place, but at the back of my mind I’d be waiting for the dreaded question that felt like it needed a drum role beforehand “So, what happened to your skin”? In that very second, my heart would sink as my alterego attempted to confidently explain what it is, why I have it and how its very much apart of who I am….

    Vitiligo, or any skin condition for that matter, can sometimes make you feel like you can’t be yourself. Aside from the usual prep like ensuring your nails are pefectly manicured, to deciding how to wear your hair and what girly scent will send his senses a little wild, one of the hardest decisions to make is, what to wear. However, for us, as girls with Vitiligo, we sometimes have additional concerns, like ‘do I wear something that covers my patches’ or ‘do I dress freely in something that might show off my skin’? I was always the girl that would cover up, often choosing skinny jeans, a blouse with long sleeves or a fitted blazer becacuse I was too self-conscious about wearing something that would show the patches on my arms.

    Thankfully, I’ve learnt a lot about dating over recent years and most importantly, have become more open with what I wear and how I portray myself when I’m actually on a date. I’ve learnt a lot from guys I regard as good friends who have spoken honestly about women, dating and what their choices are based upon…. and I can assure you for the majority, it isn’t your skin…..

    So here’s what i’ve learnt in my quest to find the one…

     Don’t Let Vitiligo Define You…

    Yes, your Vitiligo is very much part of who you are and who you’ve become, but don’t let it be the sole purpose of your existance. There is so much more to you than your skin. When you meet a guy for the first time, don’t feel pressured to explain what it is, or worry beforehand at the prospect of it becoming a topic of discussion. Talk about all the other stuff that makes you who you are – your love of sport, travelling to faraway places or how you love to indulge in chcolate after a long week at work, because they are the things that make you happy. Your skin is apart of you, its not the only thing that makes you, you…..

    We are responsible for our own happiness…

    Try not to have the expectation that part of the guys job is to make you feel good about yourself. Sure, its good to date a guy who knows how to compliment and appreciate you, when you’re looking and feeling your best, but try to avoid feeling as though he should supplement your happiness. I once believed it was a guys job to compliment and make me feel comfortable if I chose to wear a t-shirt or a swimsuit on the beach, but I soon realised im responsible for feeling good about me and anything else is a nice bonus!

    Guys arent as concerned about your skin as you might think…

    Apologies if that is borderline blunt, I just want to build on the point that your skin isn’t what determines who you are as a person. I can’t speak for all guys, but honestly, the majority are not worried about your skin. Imagine you’ve been talking for weeks, exchanging flirtatious one liners, feeling each other’s energy and you’re simply feeling a really good vibe. Date night arrives. You’ve arranged a great meeting spot and you’ve chosen the outfit that makes you feel confident. When you think of everything that surrounds that vision, where does Vitiligo fit in? I’d love if you could honestly say ‘nowhere’…

    I remember catching a guy staring at my hands once. He was incredibly hot, so the shear thought of his eyes transfixed on my porcelain white hands almost made me crumble. Seconds later, he took my hand and told me how beautiful they were and then proceeded to tell me how his cousin developed Vitiligo when he was 12 years old. It made me realise how negatively assuming my thoughts can sometimes be and just how often I think the worst when really they could be thinking the opposite. For me, it really broke the ice in the most endearing way. I valued the honesty and the openness which made me feel as though I could comfortably be myself.

    Confidence is the most attractive quality…

    As women, we like confidence in a man….men like the same…and believe me its all the rage these days! If you look around you and on social media, there are endless advocates promoting body confidence and embracing all that we are aesthetically. Now, I’m not saying that all guys are open to dating girls that embrace their differences, but a large percentage love a girl that loves herself. The girls that are content and accepting of who they are the ones that are probably quite fun to be around.

    If you’re content, comfortable and realise your own self-worth, then a guy will see those things you see. If you’re someone who isn’t comfortable in their own skin and expresses that, not only can it put pressure on a relationship but it can become hard for a guy to convince you that you are a beautiful person…..especially if you don’t believe it yourself.

    Don’t make any assumptions…..

    Don’t make any assumptions on what you think the other person is thinking. You will never really know, so let conversations take place and enjoy the moment without being paranoid you know what is going on in their head. I’ve had dates where guys have asked me about my skin and others where they’ve not asked me at all. I used to find it strange if I wasn’t asked, because I naturally assumed they must curious and would want to know why my skin was the way it was.

    Ive stopped looking at it too deeply. If he doesn’t ask, im open to the fact it doesn’t bother him. Im also open to the fact that he will ask someday, but for now he isnt getting to know my skin, he is getting to know me and my potential as a partner (and vice versa).

    Promise yourself this…

    The next time you are preparing for a date, focus on the things that are important. The things that are happening in the current moment – for example when you’re getting ready, painting your nails and leaving the house with half a bottle of Chanel following behind you….

    Nerves are natural and expected….even for the those most confident. As is, changing your outfit three times because you can’t decide whether the peplum top looks better than the cold shoulder top, but don’t add Vitiligo to the list of things to worry about. That can come later, but preferably not at all…

    Disclaimer: My posts are never written to offend. They are my personal viewpoints based on my own personal experiences. I hope you enjoy reading…

    Share:
    Personal Experience

    CHANGING FACES LAUNCHES FACE EQUALITY DAY

    Last month, Changing Faces launched Face Equality Day, a major milestone for the charity who recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. Launched to raise awareness and remind us to be respectful to people regardless of their appearance, it was a day that collectively brought people together from across the UK, to show support and unity for those with a disfigurement.

    Butterfly’s, created as the emblem for the day, were worn to symbolise Face Equality and later shared on social media with events taking place across the UK to make sure the message reached far and wide! Face Equality coincides with a report commission by the charity, entitled ‘Disfigurement in the UK’ which was published on the 26th May, now officially Face Equality Day.

    The report, based on a survey of more than 800 people, revealed some shocking findings that related to all areas of life, for example, four fifths of those with a disfigurement have avoided applying for a job because they believed their appearance would hinder them at the interview, whilst more than four fifths of people have experienced harassment from a stranger or unpleasantness relating to their appearance. The report was proof that things need to change.

    I remember completing the questionnaire at the beginning of the year. The in depth survey really got me thinking about my personal attitude to my skin and how I managed situations where people would question what had happened to my skin. Whilst I feel fortunate that I have overcome a number of challenges and now fully embrace who I am with Vitiligo, every time I submitted an answer to a question, I thought about others who were doing the exact same task, who weren’t so confident about being different and still felt discriminated against because of a condition they have. A painful reality…

    To coincide with Face Equality Day, I was asked to speak with the lovely Jenny Campbell, an award winning poet and short story writer, and who runs a very successful YouTube channel. We had a chat about Disfigurement and its representation in the media….click the link to find out what I think about the media and how it portrays people who are different…..

    <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Isf46cOwhFs” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Share:
    Personal Experience

    International Womens Day: Be Bold For Change

    March is a significant month in the calendar for women across the globe, as it’s the month that celebrates and honors the achievements of women in multiple ways.

    When I think about what International Women’s Day means to me, I automatically think of empowerment, strength, unity and celebration. The movement can be traced back to March 8th 1908 when 15’000 women marched through the streets of New York, protesting for shorter hours, equal pay and voting rights. The following year, on February 28th, the first national women’s day (NWD) was announced making the last Sunday of every February the official day of celebration until 1913.

    Since then, the initiative has strengthened globally. As a firm placeholder in the calendar, it’s a day that brings recognition to our achievements across platforms such as social, politics, economics and culture. It’s also a day that celebrates reflection, advocacy and action and holds stance to our continued journey towards gender equality, which is something women are still striving for to this day.

    This years theme is; #BeBoldForChange which is a collective call for a better working world where there is equality. Events will be taking place globally, ranging from social gatherings, speaking events, corporate events, exhibitions, women’s networks and beyond, creating an opportunity for all women to get involved in one way or another.

    So with March 8th being the day when we celebrate all that it is to be a woman in today’s world, here are the women I’d like to give mention too who are defying the odds and have inspired me….

    Winnie Harlow

    Since appearing on ANTM in 2014, Winnie has carved out a high profile career in the fashion industry that has turned her into a globally recognised figure. In her role as model and activist, she has featured on Ted X Teen where she presented her speech ‘My story is painted on my body’ and also spoke at the 2015 women of the world summit about not letting people label her. She has walked numerous fashion runways, recently closing the show for Julian MacDonald at the 2017 London Fashion week. She is heavily photographed and often seen in the press being praised for her fashion awareness, confidence and for being the face changer of fashion that has inspired some many women and young girls to love and feel confident in the skin they’re in. She has accomplished so much in so little time; it’s easy to forget she is still only 22 years of age.

    Adwoa Aboah

    Whilst model Adwoa does not have Vitiligo what she does have is passion and boldness. In 2015 she launched Girls Talk (after a brief stint in rehab) a movement created through her passion for helping girls share their experiences and feelings in an environment where they feel safe and can trust. In 2016 she opened up her world and shared her own personal story, which highlighted her battle with depression, drugs and self-hate. In a brave video clip, you watch as Adwoa removes her clothes whilst speaking about her experiences, giving the powerful message that style isn’t about what you wear its about being comfortable in your own skin, something that us Vitiligo girls have battled with at some stage in life. In addition to modeling and numerous magazine features, Adwoa will continue to visit schools, in an attempt to inspire and empower the next generation of women.

    April Star

    Coincidently, 12-year-old April has a rather fitting surname, as she really is a little star in the making. She is currently one of the faces of the Gap campaign that promotes fearless beauty and has gained global praise, as finally there is movement towards recognising that beauty and confidence comes in many forms. April developed Vitiligo at the age of 6 and rather than retreat she pursued her dreams of modeling and focused on changing the perception of beauty.

    In a survey conducted by the Girlguiding Girls Attitudes Survey, where 1,500 girls were questioned, it was revealed that 40% of girls within the group didn’t feel pretty enough and 25% felt that they needed to be perfect. One in six feel ashamed or embarrassed with how they look. These results are not only shocking, but also worrying.

    As a little girl growing and developing in a world that is heavily image conscious, it’s refreshing to see she is confident in her own skin. She is an example of someone, I hope, other young girls can learn from.

    Diandra Forrest

    Diandra Forrest is incredibly striking. Beautiful in fact. When I goggled her name and her images appeared, I found myself mesmerized by her looks. For those who don’t know, Diandra is a model and actress from the USA, who also happens to be the first female model with albinism to sign to a major modeling agency. Like others who suffer with skin conditions, Diandra was subject to taunts, name-calling and ridicule in her younger years because she was in fact, different. Years later she moved to New York, where it was there she found people were stopping her because of her unique look. She was then spotted by photographer Shameer Khan who told her she should model and so her journey began.

    Aside from walking the catwalk, Diandra is passionate about spreading awareness around albinism and is involved in efforts to empower women. She has also partnered with Assisting Children in Need (AZN), a Tanzanian not for profit organization that aids and supports children in relation to education, medical care and independent living.

    Us Girls

    I should of course, mention us! The Vitiligo models, Bloggers, TV Personalities and all the other things we are doing and aspiring to do, as we learn not to let our skin define us. Visibility in the media continues to grow and create awareness, as our ability to open up has excelled, proving that we too, love our skin. We are embracing our skin and we are redefining the face of beauty.

    How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day?

    If you would like to get involved in events in your local area, check out the link below for more information: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Events

     

     

    Share: