Q: When did you develop vitiligo and how did it make you feel?
My first vitiligo spot appeared on the side of my face when I was just nine years old. Initially, we had no idea what it was because the spot was so small; in fact, we assumed it was a mark left by incorrectly applied sunscreen!
Over the course of two years more spots started to appear which prompted my concerned parents to take me to see a Dermatologist. As soon as he saw my skin he diagnosed me with the condition. He explained to me and my parents what vitiligo was and automatically started to recommend potential treatment options. My parents and I decided against treatment at the time because it sounded to evasive and it wasn’t guaranteed to work. I completely respect that some people choose treatment, but it just wasn’t for me.
Q: School can often be very difficult when you have vitiligo. What was life at school like for you?
I was very self-conscious. I was bullied and teased a lot because my skin was so different. I was called names like alien, cow and ghost. It would upset me so much that I would go home and attempt to scratch off my spots. Gradually, it started to affect my self-confidence and mental health because being at school made me feel anxious. I was truly ashamed of how I looked and hated that I had to face my tormentors.
Q: Did you try to cover your spots?
I did everything I could to disguise my spots. I covered up as much as I could with clothes and would wear makeup in those places that people could see.
Q: How and when did you reach self acceptance?
It took many years for me to become comfortable with my skin. Prior to that time I felt alone and isolated because I didn’t know anyone else with the condition. However, when I turned thirteen and started to use social media it was then that I realised there were so many people that looked like me and had gone through something similar. Suddenly, I felt like I wasn’t alone and that there were people I could talk to. The support from my family and friends has really helped me embrace my skin, because they helped me realise that I am beautiful and rare.
Q: What advice would you give to other teens who might be struggling with vitiligo?
It can be incredibly tough managing the condition during your teenage years, but what I would say, is if you feel like you are struggling remember that you are not alone and that you’re beautiful. We are unique and we are rare and that should be celebrated. So go show off those unique spots. Only 1% of the world’s population has them and you were given them.
Q: What made you decide to use social media as a way of connecting with others with the condition?
I saw a feature on a morning show that featured a dog, White Eyed Rowdy, and two kids who also had vitiligo. I felt so inspired that I reached out to his owner, sent her a message and she responded. We soon became friends. Shortly afterwards I built up the courage to start my own Instagram page as part of my own healing process. It was a place for me to post some of my modelling photos that I hoped would show people that diversity and inclusion are where it’s at! I want to encourage diversity but also encourage change in what society has traditionally defined as beautiful. I want to inspire others to love themselves because I spent so long hating myself. I don’t want others to struggle the way I did. I want them to know they are beautiful. Being a part of the vitiligo community has helped me tremendously. Not only is it a safe place where we can all share our stories, but also support one another. My journey in learning to accept and embrace my skin wouldn’t have been the same without everyone in the community.
Q: What would you tell those bullies now that you are confident in your skin?
I hope that now we have grown up, they reflect and realise how damaging their words were and that there is no place for bullying or tormenting others. But, mainly I would want to tell my younger self to not let other people’s opinions define me. There is nothing about who I am that needs to change….
You can follow Lidia’s story on Instagram @lidia.bach