When and why did you create your blog?
Living Dappled was launched in June 2016 as a lifestyle blog for girls and by girls with vitiligo. Growing up with vitiligo, I struggled with confidence inwardly but usually found the courage to show my skin anyway. Over the years, random conversations with strangers helped me realize that my perspective on living with vitiligo might be unique – that I might have a message to share. Looking at online resources for vitiligo, I noticed that there were very few blogs and that most of them were focused on treatments. I couldn’t help but feel like part of the conversation was missing. Vitiligo is a disease without a cure and treatments that are hit or miss, so most people have to live with their spots – but no one was talking about how to live day-to-day with vitiligo. That’s how the idea for Living Dappled was born. I wanted to create a positive, uplifting space for girls to talk about everyday life with vitiligo. The blog covers everything from beauty and fashion to coping, news, advocacy and personal stories. It’s a safe haven that balances authenticity and positivity – creating a space to talk about the harsher realities of living with vitiligo while also sharing inspiring stories that can build people up. The platform is also built to encourage guest blogging so we can feature voices from across the vitiligo community.
How did you come up with the name Living Dappled?
One of my best friends from college loves horses and especially Appaloosas, which have a dappled coat that reminds her of my vitiligo spots. Ever since she shared that with me, the word “dappled” has stuck in my mind when I think about vitiligo. Plus, “dappled” has a charm about it – it’s less scientific.
How do you find girls to write posts?
It’s a mix – sometimes stories are sent to me and sometimes I stumble across people with vitiligo who have already written something and ask if they will write for the blog. Living Dappled was created to be a community platform, not a personal blog, so guest bloggers are critical to our mission of being a multi-faceted voice for vitiligo. The more voices that we can share, the more perspectives, experiences and stories we can put out into the world – raising awareness but also reaching readers who need to hear these messages.
What has been one of your biggest achievements to come from your blogging career?
The past two years have been a whirlwind – I’ve had the chance to speak at World Vitiligo Day, meet leading dermatologists who specialize in vitiligo treatment and research and interview CoverGirl’s first-ever model with vitiligo, Amy Deanna. Those were each defining moments for me. But the success that I consider my biggest achievement is actually the feedback that I get from readers. One of the most meaningful messages I’ve gotten was from a twenty-something girl who said the blog had inspired her to share a picture of her vitiligo for the first time in her life. I was in tears reading what she wrote. Blogging takes a lot of time, energy, courage and passion. Getting messages like that – something that cuts to the core of why I created Living Dappled in the first place – make all the late nights and early mornings worth it.
If you could go back in time now what advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t let fear hold you back from pursuing your dreams. I actually had the idea for Living Dappled six years before I launched the blog. But I was scared – scared it wasn’t going to be “perfect” and scared of what people would think of me. Then one day my brother asked me what I would do if I only had one year left to live – and I said that I would launch this blog. So I did. The fear didn’t suddenly go away, nor did it ever go away. I was nervous the day I launched the blog and I still get nervous before I go on camera or speak in front of people. But the impact I’m making – the messages I get from girls with vitiligo who are writing to me from around the world – makes it worth it. And looking back, I only wish I would have started this project sooner.
Vitiligo can be life-changing for some people and it can take a while for people to get used to it and accept it. When did you first notice you had vitiligo and how did you cope with it?
I first got vitiligo when I was seven years old and it slowly spread to my entire body over the course of twenty years. Today I’m 100% naturally depigmented and wear tanner so I don’t look so pale. Coping with vitiligo was always a day to day thing – and still is. Outwardly, I stayed confident growing up and rarely let anyone know how much I struggled with my skin. On the inside though, I was hurting – I remember crying myself to sleep, obsessing over what my skin would look like without spots, even thinking I didn’t deserve friends because of the way I looked. Each time though, I found the strength to wipe away the tears and keep going. It was the only option, really.
What advice do you have for those who are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that they have vitiligo?
Seek out others who have vitiligo. The comment I receive from readers most often is that they felt so alone before finding Living Dappled. Only 1% of the world’s population has vitiligo, so it’s still rare to see someone with vitiligo on the street or in your local community. It’s also hard for someone who doesn’t have the condition to understand what you’re going through. That’s why so many people feel like they are going through this alone. I didn’t actively reach out to another person with vitiligo until I was in my twenties and I cried the night I first got to talk to another girl with vitiligo about everything I was going through. Our stories were so similar and it was like a huge weight was lifted – I wasn’t alone, and that meant everything to me in a way I could have never expected. Sharing your story and finding someone who understands your pain can be healing. And the vitiligo community is growing. You can find support groups in cities across the country, there are countless Facebook groups about vitiligo, and there are a growing number of Instagram accounts about vitiligo. Reach out, ask for help, have a conversation – it won’t make vitiligo go away, but it will help you cope.
What effect do you think social media has on the way people think they should look?
Social media is incredibly influential when it comes to beauty standards – and that can be both good and bad. On the one hand, I’ve personally experienced how emotionally damaging it can be. Social media lends itself to comparison – it’s easy to build a habit of comparing yourself to others and that can cripple your confidence. I remember sobbing after scrolling through my Instagram feed one summer, feeling devastated that I was never going to look like the girls flaunting bikinis and summer tans. But social media can also have a positive influence. Social media is building a community of people with vitiligo – and that’s important because most people don’t have that community in their actual lives. The hashtag #vitiligo has over 167,000 posts as of today – that’s huge for the vitiligo community. Seeing people who look like you in your social feed can not only help you feel less alone, but it also helps rewire your understanding of beauty and personal acceptance. That’s why accounts like Living Dappled and so many others are so impactful.
Do you think there are enough communities on and offline where vitiligo is the main topic?
Enough? No. But thanks to the publicity around models like Winnie Harlow – discovered on America’s Next Top Model – and most recently, CoverGirl’s newest spokesmodel, Amy Deanna, vitiligo is front and centre more than ever before. It’s been truly astounding to see the condition get so much coverage over the past few years. Platforms like Allure, Glamour, CNN, the Today Show, Huffington Post – the list goes on – have all featured people living with vitiligo. I’ve also seen more personal blogs and Instagram accounts popping up about vitiligo. Without a doubt, awareness is growing and that is something to celebrate. However, the reality is that so many people with vitiligo still feel alone and still deal with bullying and social alienation because of the lack of education around vitiligo. And that’s why it’s not enough – yet.
What does it mean to love yourself?
To me, loving yourself is all about knowing that you are worth it. You are worth loving. You are worth living for. You – and your happiness – are worth fighting for. When you live with vitiligo, loving yourself can be hard. Often, it’s a choice that you have to consciously make every day instead of something that just comes easily. So loving yourself is about making that choice – the choice to be kind to yourself, the choice to ignore the negative comments, the choice to smile at your own reflection, even when you don’t recognize the person staring back at you.