Disclaimer: This Article was First Published On Forreason.com and is published here with approval.
How would you react if you'll found out that the person you were dating is keeping a big secret from you? Not an easy question. Trust is the foundation of every meaningful relationship, and let's be honest: who doesn't seek to find his or her true love? Social media made relationships way harder. Various stimulations surround us, and it seems that there are endless opportunities to find meaningful relationships.
While dating apps like Tinder and Ok Cupid made it easy for the everyday player to find a quick fling, the sad truth is that real, meaningful relationship is not easy to find. Would you ever consider starting a relationship based on lies?
A world full of filters
Filters are everywhere. People are using them daily to fine-tuning their photos. With add-ons and filters like those you can find in Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetune, it becomes much harder to determine who is the person who stands in front of us. We invite you to discover a different kind of filter.
This filter had been used by a certain girl to hide the truth from her loved ones, and basically, from everyone else. This story is about self-acceptance and embracing the real you; we dare you to take a step in her shoes and think about how you would react in the same situation?
Being Different Is Beautiful
It is always difficult to be considered 'different' by the world. By our very human nature, people are drawn to seeking communities, friends, companions, and partners that offer us a sense of sameness and a feeling of belonging. It seems that even in today's ever-evolving and increasingly fluid society, a degree of conformity is required in order to fit into what the world deems as 'acceptable.'
This is the touching story of how one woman was able to walk the long road toward self-compassion and understanding, ultimately discovering that being different is not a weakness, it's a superpower.
Nothing to Worry About?
Mariah Perkins was eleven years old when she happened to notice a small white patch on the back of one of her hands. The African American teen was perturbed and soon showed her mom the small patch of discoloration.
Without too much thought or concern, Mariah's mom told her it was nothing to worry about and that she was sure the issue would resolve itself. Sadly, a few months later, the issue had become a lot more difficult to ignore...
A Bigger Issue
Within a few months, the pigmentation had begun to spread to other areas of her body. "It was like a really small spot on my hand, and it kind of gradually spread to spots on my nose and my eyes, and that's when I first started to notice it," Mariah shared in an interview.
Though the teen experienced no pain or discomfort with the apparent skin condition, she and her mother grew more and more concerned once the spots began to cover her face.
Mariah and her mom soon looked for professional help regarding the spreading of pigmentation. "When it appeared on my face, my mum took me straight to the doctor," remembers Mariah, now 22 years old. Her local doctor was unable to give the mother and daughter an exact diagnosis.
Despite the doctor's reassurance, Mariah's mom felt driven to seek a more concrete, second opinion. "He didn't seem too concerned, but mum pushed for me to see a dermatologist," Mariah went on.
As Mariah and her mom began to seek out a proper diagnosis and a plan of treatment, the pigmentation began to spread more rapidly across the little girls face. It was only later that Mariah knew her life - and her appearance - would be forever changed.
"It took up about 90 percent of my face," said Mariah. The teen saw multiple doctors who each referred her to another. She saw four dermatologists before the diagnosis of vitiligo was ultimately confirmed.
Mariah now knew the condition was irreversible. "It was then I was told I had vitiligo, a condition that causes my skin to lose pigmentation. To begin with, I was just relieved to have a diagnosis, but the more I found out about it, the more I began to worry," recalls Mariah.
Although vitiligo affects approximately 50 million people across the world, doctors and specialists are still uncertain about what exactly causes the condition to initially occur.
Vitiligo is understood to be an autoimmune disease where the body begins to unknowingly attack its own melanin cells - melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color ‐ and it is widely believed to be triggered by stress.
Although the condition is not life-threatening, vitiligo is known to have a profoundly negative effect on the mental health of its sufferers. Like so many others, Mariah felt a devastating loss of self-confidence at such a critical and difficult age.
An Emotional Time
"I was already insecure about how I looked, and having vitiligo at the time made me feel worse," shared Mariah. "Emotionally, it was hard. At first, I was in denial and didn't think about it too much," she says, "but when my mid-teens hit, I just wanted to fit in, so it was a struggle being different from other people. I never felt pretty or cute," she continued.
The white patches on Mariah's face began to grow bigger, eventually merging together to form extensive areas of pale skin.
At such a young age, Mariah felt more and more desperate to conceal her condition and look more like her peers. In order to hide the pale patches on her face, Mariah turned to make up. "I didn't want to be known as the girl with the skin condition," she explained.
Each morning, before school, she spent 45 minutes applying heavy foundation to her face. "Most people didn't know that I had a skin condition on my face; they just thought I wore make- up,' Mariah said.
Turning to Obsession
Within time, Mariah's concealer and makeup routine became obsessive. "I'd spend about 45 minutes applying my makeup, making sure every bit of my face was covered and trying to make it look as natural as possible," says Mariah.
"It got to the stage where I wouldn't let anyone see me without makeup, apart from my close family. If I went for a sleepover at a friend's house, I'd sleep in my makeup and wake up early before anyone else to touch it up."
Hundreds of Dollars
Beyond the emotional and mental toll, Mariah's obsessive daily makeup routine was also becoming more and more of a financial burden for her and her mother. "I would go through setting powder in two weeks, so I was buying $25-30 setting powder every two weeks, and I was buying foundations every month, so I was going through hundreds of dollars of makeup... Wearing that much makeup all the time was time-consuming and expensive,' she said.
As Mariah grew older, her condition and makeup regiment began to hold her back from experiencing the full joys of youth in different ways. "I always felt very self-conscious about my condition around boys, and that held me back when I was younger," says Mariah now. "I couldn't hug people; no one could touch my face. I was always so afraid of messing up my makeup, and would check myself in the mirror constantly." Mariah became more depressed with each passing year.
Seeking a Change
Mariah threw herself into her studies, earned herself a set of straight A's, and eventually secured a place at a local university to study Sociology & Criminal Justice. Her family worried that a college setting would be too much for Mariah to handle in her fragile state, but ultimately, attending University was the best thing for her.
Everything began to change once she found herself in a more liberated and accepting social setting. Mariah soon began to believe her life could change for the better.
Soon, Mariah began to make a gradual transition. "I thought it would be scary, but it was easier than being in secondary school," explains Mariah. "I made lots of friends, and they all told me I didn't need to wear makeup at all. At University, people seem to be more accepting and positive.
I started to wear less and less [makeup], it became more of my choice, and that is where the empowerment came for me," she said.
A New Way of Life
Mariah had come clean, and before long, she was living an entirely make up free life. After posting a few barefaced pictures on her social media platforms, Mariah was further encouraged to fully accept herself and embrace her appearance.
The response from her followers was overwhelmingly affirming with many people applauding her for arriving at a place of self-empowerment and self-love. "People started to see me on social media, and it made it easier for the transition," she says.
Today, Mariah proudly declares, "'I do not wear makeup anymore to cover up my condition." The young woman has now fully embraced herself, along with the rest of the world.
She has become an ambassador for other sufferers with the same condition as well as so many young women who face their own battles with insecurity and lacking self-worth. Mariah now loves her unique skin but has not let it define who she is and what she can achieve.
Finding Her Voice
Mariah now boasts an impressive social media following made up of thousands of people who have been inspired by her courageous journey toward self-acceptance. She has 35 000 Instagram followers with whom she shares daily content. She playfully uses hashtags, including 'PandaBear' and 'VitiligoQueen.'
The majority of her shared images showcase the unique pigmentation patterns of her skin in all their unusual glory. She has also encouraged so many others with the condition to come forward and embrace their authentic selves.
Self Love All the Way
Although there are now laser treatments available that will help to reduce the appearance of her pigmentation, Mariah says she wouldn't change a thing about the way she looks.
"I think I was meant to go through it for a reason so I can help others go through it and make it easier," she shared. "I definitely wouldn't have taken it away because I would not have been the person I am today without it."
Celebrating A New Decade
At the start of 2020, Mariah shared a series of images capturing her transition from childhood to where she finds herself today, paired with an emotional caption. She wrote, "This new year and a new decade is the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I have gone through not one transformation these last ten years, but two. One: going through losing myself and hiding behind makeup because I was afraid and ashamed of what being judged on what I looked like..."
The post went on to read, "...And two: growing to love myself unapologetically inside and out, accepting my skin, and embracing my beauty and uniqueness. I love the woman I am becoming, and I LOVE MY VITILIGO. G-d made no mistakes when making me the way I am, and I am thankful every day for the person it has made me. These years have not been easy, and at times I still struggle, but I am on the right path and cannot wait to see what is in store for me in the next decade!"
Her Role Model
Mariah then went on to thank her followers and her close family for their support as well as the brands which have allowed her the platform to share her unique story. Mariah has also previously made mention of another influence that dramatically changed the way she viewed her condition and appearance.
Winnie Harlow - who also has extensive vitiligo - is now an international supermodel who continues to work with some of the world's most luxurious, high-end fashion brands.
There is no doubt that she is absolutely amazing!
Winnie Harlow was diagnosed with vitiligo in her early childhood. The model and ambassador have shared that she suffered severe bullying in her youth and was reportedly called a "cow, zebra, and all manner of other disparaging slurs" in the face of her unique appearance.
She was forced to change schools numerous times to escape the daily verbal harassment and seek more accepting social spaces. The torment led her to even consider taking her own life in her early teenage years.
A Door Opening
Winnie's life was forever changed when she was discovered by America's Next Top Model host, Tyra Banks, on Instagram. Harlow was a finalist in the 2014 season of the show, and, despite her elimination, the exposure helped to open the door to the international fashion industry.
She has since become a trailblazing supernova, walking the runways and appearing in campaigns for some of the most sought-after fashion labels in the world. She has most recently collaborated with Kim Kardashian on an inclusive range of beauty products.
More Than Skin
Like Mariah, Winnie has embraced her condition, yet she continually refuses to identify with being a vitiligo' sufferer.' Harlow shared her life-long frustration in a recent interview, saying, "I'm not my skin.
People make it such a thing where it's like, 'Oh, my gosh, she is the spokesperson.' No, I'm not a spokesperson. I happen to have vitiligo, and I'm proud of it. I love talking about it. But it's not the only thing about me."
Winnie's modeling career has been marked by a string of accomplishments that have deconstructed the taboo around what it means to live with vitiligo. Harlow was the first of her kind to walk in the iconic Victoria's Secret fashion show, she also most recently appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine.
But Winnie believes that each of her achievements are not just eye-opening for those with the skin condition, but for every child who has ever felt 'different' from the norm.
Different is Beautiful
In response to her Victoria's Secret fashion show feature, Winnie shared, "It's a door-opening for everyone. We are all the same because we're all different. People always ask me what you would like to say too little girls with vitiligo. It's bigger than that... it's those little girls with vitiligo, it's that little girl who didn't like her hair, it's that little girl who had freckles, it's that little boy who got teased because his lips were too big."
People like Winnie and Mariah have a very special message for the world; it's not just okay to be different; it is absolutely wonderful. We totally agree. In a world that is full of advertising and body shaming, we think it would be great if big brands will embrace much more positive approach towards beauty, and we do hope to see the faces of Winnie Harlow or Mariah advertising brands such as Toyota, Crysler, Mercedes or any other big advertisers along with the usual models.
Cover Photo: instagram.com/worldof_riah/