We live in such a superficial world where people tend to judge one another just from the way the look. However, that is slowly starting to change. Winnie Harlow started to change the modeling game when she started to embrace her vitiligo. Her confidence within herself inspired others with the incurable condition to also embrace their beauty. Tiffany Taylor is one of those who have been inspired by Harlow.
For those who are unfamiliar, vitiligo is condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells (melanocytes). This results in discolored patches in different areas of the body, including the skin, hair, retina and mucous membranes.
Taylor is following in Harlow’s leading in telling her story with her skin. Check out the interview below as she chatted on her struggles with the skin condition and how she overcame those struggles.
Can you please tell myself and the readers about yourself and upbringing?
I was born and raised in Lancaster, PA with my parents and four younger siblings. I loved my childhood and I am very thankful for the structure that has helped make me into the woman I am today. My parents were strict and we had a legalistic, Christian household.
What are some of the daily struggles you encounter with vitiligo?
I’ve had vitiligo for over a decade and I am still within my first month of no longer hiding it. Previous to December, trying to hide it was my biggest struggle. I wore a ton of makeup on my face and neck. I spray tanned the areas that would be exposed in summer clothing, such as my hands, arms and feet. It was a lot to keep up with since it wore off frequently.
Since I’ve stopped wearing makeup, the biggest struggle is the stares, but they are nowhere near as bad as I had imagined that they would be. I live in Philadelphia where most people refrain from eye contact in the streets, anyways, so they’re quick glances then the moment passes and life goes on. If anything, strangers have felt the need to be more randomly complimentary which is ok with me, lol.
Were you often picked on and left out of certain activities because of your perceived difference?
I was 14 when my first vitiligo spot appeared on my face, during the summer before my freshman year of high school. My parents and I found a makeup that worked and decided that was the best solution because it progressed very slowly. I was able to keep it secret for all of high school and most of college. Without vitiligo, my skin was already the most different where I grew up (token black chick). I believe this is part of why I was so inclined to keep it hidden. Feeling different and trying not to be was already a daily challenge. When vitiligo struck, I didn’t want to give anyone a chance to tease me for it.
This past halloween you bared your skin with no makeup as you were Winnie Harlow is she your inspiration?
I first learned about Winnie Harlow from a cashier who complimented my hands when I was checking out saying they were beautiful just like Winnie Harlow’s from America’s Next Top Model. I had never heard of her, but I was already appreciative for her creating awareness for vitiligo. Her confidence is undeniable and that’s an attractive quality in anyone. Coming from Winnie Harlow it is even more so because she is so different from everyone in her industry, yet she still goes for it and excels in it. That is very inspirational to me, so I decided to be her for Halloween; deep down, I really just wanted to be “me” for once in public.
This was my first time revealing any of the vitiligo skin on my face in a social setting and at that point I still didn’t bare it all. I used my makeup to mimic how Winnie Harlow’s is on her face. That was my baby step and I have gradually worn less and less makeup these past three months. Midway through December, still today, and hopefully forever, I no longer hide my vitiligo skin. Letting go of this “secret” (to some people it was obvious) was the best feeling I’ve ever had.
Do you draw courage and motivation from Ms. Harlow whenever you may need a pick me up?
Most definitely. I follow her on Instagram and she saw and liked my costume post! That feedback from countless strangers was definitely the boost I needed to come clean and live freely exposing my skin in its current and natural color.
Winnie Harlow is a lot more outspoken than I am. She is bold and unashamed, which are two characteristics I hope to own as I grow into living in my ever-changing skin. I also follow other people with vitiligo who have started pages, blogs and created awareness for this skin disorder. It’s encouraging to know you are not alone in your journey.
I see a you’re a runner what events have you ran and plan on running in?
I run to stay in shape and for the mental challenge of it. I’ve done a few 10 milers and half marathons. I haven’t done a marathon. I will sign up and hopefully get in the Broad Street Run again this year.
Are you pursuing a career in running?
Haha, no, it’s exercise for me. If I ever win a race I enter, I will re-evaluate this decision at that time (laughs).
What words of comfort and encouragement can you give other young women and people also living with vitiligo?
This is very new to me still and my experience is mine, but what I have learned and felt so free in doing is ditching the full coverage makeup. I worked so hard for so long to cover my vitiligo skin it was having me hide who I was as a person. People respect you a lot more when you are visibly comfortable being you, and in my makeup, I wasn’t. I was always afraid of what happens if it wears off or what will they think when they find out what I really look like. It starts with you, loving you. If you can’t accept yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with this generation of millennials?
Coinciding with my last response, you cannot be afraid to be yourself. Confidence comes from within. We all have insecurities, but embracing what makes you unique is how you can live in truth and live freely.