IN THE BEGINNING
At the age of 16 my vitiligo condition began to develop, as well as the start of a somewhat new life. Prior to having vitiligo, I was just an ordinary kid, minding my own business and trying my best to make everyone proud by getting good grades. But one day at high school I was in a sports tournament and I fell on my knee and got badly injured. A few months went passed and the wound on my knee was completely healed except for the pigmentation in that area on my body.
When I noticed that I did what everyone would do. I went to my mother and told her that my knee was still white. We decided to wait for some time to see if something would happen. At this point, I already started to feel afraid but I was trying to stay positive. But I sort of knew that this was not normal. One month passed and still, there wasn’t any positive progress.
The nightmares I had become reality. The white spot I had on my knee grew in size and I started to notice more white spots on my hands. My mother and I immediately went to a doctor to seek professional help. We went to a doctor who specialised in skin conditions. After glancing at my knee, he totally shattered my self-perception.
The doctor said these words: ‘Gideon you are going to be white. There is nothing we can do about it so you have to accept it.’
He had a fair point. But I just didn’t want to accept the fact that I had vitiligo. For many years, I tried every possible treatment to at least stop the depigmentation in my skin. I was hoping to return to who I was before. Nothing worked.
So, I was hiding. Wearing long sleeve shirts, trousers or jeans no matter what the season. I felt like I was not normal. After hitting an absolute low, I decided that my skin condition is part of me and I just didn’t want to hide anymore.
LEARNING TO HANDLE IT
I gave myself a mission, which was to educate people on what vitiligo is in order to help others so they never have to reach the lows that I did.
I started a job in a supermarket in my town in The Netherlands and I began wearing short sleeves. At first I felt so uncomfortable because I could feel people staring at my spotted arms. But I carried on and eventually I got a few people coming up to me to ask what had happened. ‘Did you burn yourself? Were you born like that? Are both of your parents black or is one white? Did god punish you? Does it hurt?’ were some of the frequently asked questions. The questions were quite brutal and really hurt me. But these people hadn’t seen someone with vitiligo before so I couldn’t be angry with them.
I took the time to answer all the questions in the hope that they would spread the word. After sometime vitiligo became normal to them and I got approached by a guy in the gym. He knew a popular clothing store owner that was looking for new models for his web-store. He gave me the details and told me to call them. At this point I was afraid. I wasn’t so comfortable putting myself out there. But I also promised myself that I would try.
After a month of self-doubt, I did it. I went to the studio and I had my very first photoshoot. I didn’t know if I would get positive or negative reactions. But I didn’t have to be afraid of anything. The reactions were all positive. Even other people with vitiligo came up to me and told me that I helped them with accepting their skin condition.
WHERE I STAND TODAY
As for now, I am totally comfortable in my skin. I see it as a part of me. It shaped me into who I am right now. It could sound strange to some, but if you gave me the chance to gain all my pigment back, I wouldn’t do it. This is who I am and who I will be and I will not change this for anything.
When you have been through the process of depigmentation, you start to know yourself and your worth. I know who I am and that I am a strong enough to still have a positive self-image. I thought life would only get worse as my depigmentation continued. But life only got better day by day. Vitiligo is partially responsible for the opportunities I have now and the things I have achieved so far. But even more satisfying is how I have indirectly helped those in need without even knowing them.
You have to be strong when you have vitiligo and you may go through times when you feel like an outsider. Just keep in mind, you are unique as you are and beauty cannot be defined by others who are not open to accepting new ways of being beautiful.
PHOTOGRAPHER: HYLTON BOUCHER
STYLIST: CHRISNA DE BRUYN @ONE LEAGUE @LAMPOST
MAKE-UP: ALICE COLORITI @ONE LEAGUE
MODEL: GIDEON @TWENTY MANAGEMENT
DESIGNER: UNKOWN UNION