Andrea Thomas, featured in our latest campaign Feel Like The Masterpiece You Are, is a model with a striking skin condition known as vitiligo.
We chose Andrea, along with 7 other influencers, to represent Shapermint not least because of their incredible beauty, but mainly because of their empowering stories.
Here we chat with Andrea to find out more about vitiligo and her journey to self-acceptance.
“The type of vitiligo I have is believed to be an autoimmune skin condition that causes your body’s antibodies to treat melanocytes as foreign cells.
Melanocytes are the cells that produce your skin color (melanin) so when these cells are attacked, your skin starts to depigment in different areas.
Research points to there being different ways that this can be triggered so people experience the change in skin color at any age. Some of the triggers are believed to be physical trauma like a bad injury, emotional stress, or a sunburn.”
People with vitiligo, which creates a two-tone patchwork effect across the body, are often branded “dalmatian” or other discriminatory terms. No wonder many with the disease want to get rid of it, but currently, no known cure exists.
“There are treatments that can slow the spread of depigmented areas or that can partially re-pigment the skin.” But, as Andrea explains, “Treatments are expensive and time-consuming, so most people choose not to treat their vitiligo.”
Growing up, other than Michael Jackson, Andrea didn’t see anyone like her represented. Without people to normalize vitiligo, individuals struggled to understand it.
At home, “It was either completely ignored (which I appreciated because it helped me feel comfortable and normal) or if it was mentioned, the conversation usually focused on how to live with it, treat it, or cover it up.”
She was one of a kind attracting a lot of unwanted attention. Strangers would stare and ask Andrea questions about why she was different.
“I learned to block out any rude stares and to create a safe space for myself.”
Over time, instead of shying away from questions, Andrea became an educator and spokesperson for people with vitiligo.
“Once I started modeling, I didn’t feel I had a choice but to share my story! I’m happy I have a way to reach more people who feel encouraged by what I am doing.”
Many Shapermint gals can identify with the feeling of underconfidence and not fitting in at one time of their life or another. Whether it’s trauma, weight gain, pregnancy, or menopause, we each battle with problems that come out of nowhere and leave us feeling less than our best.
Thankfully, over the last few years, models with vitiligo have started appearing in the media. Notably, Canadian fashion model Chantelle “Winnie” Harlow (an inspiration to Andrea) who first appeared in 2014 as a contestant in season 21 of the U.S hit show America’s Next Top Model.
For Andrea, coming to terms with her body the way it is and learning to accept her unique beauty has helped her to step into her power.
“It was a long journey to be confident enough to show my vitiligo, but there really was no other option for me. When it started spreading to most of my body, I didn’t want to live my life hiding my vitiligo and staying indoors. I wanted it to be normalized and for people to recognize its beauty.”
Now she says, “I love how resilient I’ve found myself to be. I’m proud of how far I’ve come!”
About featuring in the campaign, “People said I really looked like a goddess, which is so kind and makes me feel like there is hope for a world that can see beauty in lots of ways!
I want to inspire anyone who can relate to feeling different and having to find their confidence and worth on their own!”
If you love Andrea’s story, we’d love for you to share it on Facebook, over email and messenger, or any other way you’re inspired to.
To find out more about Andrea, follow her on Instagram, @androcks.