Vitiligo: More than skin deep

An interesting story on CNN’s website this morning tells of a television news anchor, Lee Thomas, who is dealing with vitiligo, a disease that destroys the pigment of the skin. This anchor has revealed his condition in order to help others who are going through the same thing, something the director of the National Vitiligo Foundation describes as a disease that attacks the soul and psyche.

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Another (and much more famous) vitiligo sufferer, Michael Jackson, has often been the subject of choice for late-night jokesters, many insinuating that the change in his skin color was intentional. Most people wouldn’t put anything past a celebrity that would drastically alter his nose and exhibit bizarre behavior, but perhaps we should ponder what role vitiligo might have played in his obvious issues with self-esteem.

When Michael tearfully announced the reason for his changing skin color during an interview with Oprah in 1993, it was evident that the issue was quite painful. After explaining that he used makeup to even out the skin tone, he was asked why he doesn’t use brown makeup. Jackson claimed that most of his skin is already white, so using that much brown makeup was not an option. This was backed up by a statement from Karen Faye, his longtime makeup artist.

It started happening relatively early, he even was trying to hide it from me..he tried to hide it for quite awhile. He’d always try to cover it with makeup and even out his skin tone until it got so extensive. It’s all over his body. We were always trying to hide it and cover it for the longest time until he just had to tell Oprah and tell the world, ‘Listen I’m not trying to be white, I have a skin disease.’

In the beginning I tried to cover the light spots to match the darker part of his skin, but then it became so extensive that we had to go with the lighter part of his skin because his whole body was reacting…he’d have to be in complete full body makeup, every inch of his body. So it was easier to make the transition to him being to the lighter shade that he is.

Skeptics immediately pounced on Jackson, spreading rumors of skin-bleaching products and internalized racism. Many claimed that Michael no longer wanted to be black. Some said that he so despised his father that he altered his very race. Others said that he became unidentifiable sexually and racially so that he could appeal to a broader audience. Despite the naysayers, Michael continued to proclaim pride in his heritage.

I’m a black American, I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity.

We tried to control it and using make-up evens it out because it makes blotches on my skin. I have to even out my skin. But you know what’s funny, why is that so important? That’s not important to me.

I’m a great fan of art. I love Michaelangelo, if I had a chance to talk to him or read about him I would want to know what inspired him to become who he is, the anatomy of his craftsmanship, not about who he went out with last night… I mean that’s what is important to me.

I have seen plenty of pictures that would seem to prove that Michael does indeed suffer from this affliction. The following photos were taken a few years ago when Jackson reportedly suffered a life-threatening brown recluse spider bite. Although the wound is the most prominent feature in the photographs, they also reveal that his legs have undergone a dramatic change in skin color.

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The following photographs were taken during the filming of Michael’s short film “They Don’t Care About Us”, and they clearly show blotches on his chest and arms.

Michael Jackson Michael Jackson

When one considers the emotional turmoil that such a condition might have on a person that lives in the spotlight, the gloves, surgical masks, and long wigs begin to make a bit more sense. Below are photos of Michael on a recent shopping excursion, wrapped head to toe and covering his skin with adhesive bandages. This man seems so uncomfortable in his own skin that he’s become a tragic shadow of his former self.

mj_shopping1 mj_shopping2

As for the news anchor I mentioned earlier, he’s decided to stop wearing makeup when he’s off camera, and believes that vitiligo has actually had a positive impact on his life.

Having this disease forces me to focus on what I am: kind, caring, honest. There are people who have diseases that will kill them.

Read more about vitiligo here.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 12 years and three fabulous felines.

59 thoughts on “Vitiligo: More than skin deep”

  1. I have had vitiligo for many years. I have so many auto-immune problerms starting as a juvenile diabetic at age 8 and progessing to having hypothyroidism next, at age 16, then got this “V” in college on what had been an almost olive skin tone that rarely burned before.

    I guess in retrospect, it helped me to use sunscreen before I did more damage. Yes, I hated the patches but they have enlarged & so much of me has gone nearly white, now you hardly see it. I just have adjusted to having what I term porcelain skin with dark hair. The worst part is now it has also affected my nose hair & eye lashes. I seem allergic to every dye I’ve tried to use.

    I started getting acupuncture for other reasons (serious food allergies) & in the last year, I’ve noticed that many of my patches of vitiligo are starting to re-pigment. My acupuncturist says she has seen it a few times before in other patients. I suspect that my over-active immune system is finaly being made more normal.

  2. I am a 23 year old girl, I have has vitiligo since I was a toddler. I too have had severe confidence issues in my life with people calling me names (cow girl, spots, dots, leper, freak, you name it) and treating me like I was less than them just because I had two different colors of skin tone. The people have been so mean in my life it made me drop out of high school. My vitiligo covers over 80% of my body today and I notice new spots often. Hopefully one day I will just be all white and it will take all my pigment to even its self out. I have been using different types of treatments all my life topical, pills, injections, lights, cover ups, fake tans, repigmentation methods and depigmentation methods. I have found that the only thing that is truly working for me is using safe skin lighteners to lighten the tan spots of my skin to match or blend into my white spots. I have been hesitant to use a stronger lightening treatments like Hydroquinone. It seems to leave a harsher white depigmentation than my already white spots. I try to stay out of the sun as much as possible for the fact that if I can stay pale my spots blend in a bit more. It took me about 16 years to start coming out of my shell and I realized what I was meant to do with my life. I am currently in college for my nursing degree but my main goal in life Is to get my PhD in Dermatology and hopefully I will be able to help people have more options dealing with vitiligo. I think if people can see me and what I’ve been through in my life and what I’ve had to overcome than maybe they can too. I want to help people feel better about themselves. I think the biggest help and confidence booster for me in my life dealing with this has been my boyfriend. He loves me for who I am he doesn’t see my spots he see’s me.

    1. Hi Kylie. Thanks for your comment. I am sorry you have been treated so badly. I hope you achieve your goal of becoming a doctor so you can help others in the same situation. Good luck to you!

  3. I’m 40 yr old woman who had vitiligo for 12 years. Mine spread rapidly throughout my body, with depigmentation on joints, under eyes, hair, etc. I tried oral and light medications to no real avail. People used to make hurtful comments before, during and after treatment,… and this was tough. Eventually I started to make a natural treatment which has been a blessing to me. You only need to read this review in the link below… you have nothing to lose.

    Begin a new life, you deserve it …Good luck!

  4. I have lived with vitiligo since the age of 3 years old. I as a child went to every specialist there was with no luck. Mine was more visible I believe as a child, or I noticed it more, I was teased and made fun of. I at the age of 16 refused to let it rule me now most don’t even notice it because my personality reigns over me. I at almost 30 have decided to look into bleaching options for me. I feel everyone has the right to treat it as they please. This is very inspiring to all these people out here as I was the only one in my town to have it. Still to this day hateful people will bring it up and try to belittle me due to there own self-esteem issues , I dismiss them immediately. To me I am glad I lived with it. It made me the person I am. I am looking into options for bleaching but will do extensive research before deciding.

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