In high school, I remember seeing a boy with shy eyes and speckled skin. He was embarrassed and soft-spoken. I’d never seen someone to have a clash of two colors, but I thought it was beautiful. I always smiled at him, hoping to show that he was normal to me. Later, I learned he had vitiligo. I thought this was a gift, a happy defect–like a dimple–that everyone typically loves. Yet, people who have vitiligo are often ashamed and bullied.
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo may be skin deep, but the uncertainty around it buries far deeper. It’s a loss of skin melanin that comes up in irregular patches. It tends to grow over time. Vitiligo has been mentioned in text as far back as the Rig Veda (an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns). And even though we have had vitiligo alongside us for ages, we still don’t fully understand why it happens. About 2% of the world’s population has vitiligo. That might not seem like much, but it’s also the same percentage for people who have green eyes.
Graphic novels are more popular today than ever before. I couldn’t tell you one character from any that I’ve read with vitiligo. Yet, there are plenty of characters with green eyes.
So, it was natural for me to come up with a woman with vitiligo. How better to represent our cratered moon? When presenting my character, I was told that I shouldn’t because she would look ‘sick.’ This is an assumption that one too many people have about vitiligo. Instead of shaming a harmless physical quality trait, why not celebrate it?
I’m not the only person wanting to bring more inclusion.
Vitiligo in Real Time
In 2017, KayCustomz has made a point to represent vitiligo with her custom-made collectibles to show there isn’t a big deal to this superficial condition.
There are also rising numbers of models with vitiligo.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing these models look is “sick” to me.