If you’re not one to believe in fate, then I would say you were a lot like me when I was 18 years old before anything ever happened with my skin.
I was in my senior year of high school sitting in my anatomy class when my teacher assigned a project on skin disorders. Rolling my eyes at just another task I had to complete before my diploma, I picked vitiligo. I’d seen bits of vitiligo-esque discoloration on people’s hands before, but other than that, I knew nothing of what I’d soon learn was an incurable disorder. I spent an entire week on the project looking up pictures, scouring Google Scholar. I learned that when someone begins to show signs of vitiligo, it’s because their is skin losing its ability to re-create pigmented cells. I presented the project, took an A, and released my inner hypochondriac from her duties.
Long before vitiligo was a part of my life (or my school’s curriculum), I was bullied a lot by girls my age about how I looked. I always had this mindset that I was the bottom tier choice for any guy I met. I somehow still managed to date someone for two years in high school. He was a truly kind and genuine person and he helped me not worry about what other people said about me. But when we both went to college and went our separate ways, my attitude slowly reverted back to my old way of thinking.
Two years later, I had just moved back home for the summer before my junior year of college. I was getting dressed when I noticed two pale blotches on my stomach. Was this a birthmark I had never noticed? Did I do a really awful job applying tanning lotion from the weekend prior? It could have been, but it wasn’t. That’s how vitiligo works, you see; it just pops up casually overnight anywhere it chooses to on your naked body.
Typically, you head straight to Google to look for all the information you can when you find an abnormality on your skin. But with my research paper still fresh in my mind, I knew all the information that I needed.
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so… welcome to The Flipside (as in the flipside of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society’s definition of “beauty”. Here you’ll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we’d love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because everybody gets to be heard on The Flipside.
Opening Image: Amy Deanna