The Skin I’m In: Deep Dive

In The Skin I’m In, the character Miss Saunders is described as having skin that has patches of a lighter hue. Although the cause for her skin’s appearance is never specified in the text, many have speculated that Sharon Flake is depicting a person with vitiligo. Vitiligo is a chronic medical condition that affects the immune system, though it is often associated with the skin. While it is not a contagious or life-threatening disease, it causes growing patches of depigmentation to appear on the body. The changes to appearance it causes can be extremely distressing. Anyone can experience vitiligo but the effects of depigmentation may be more noticeable on people with darker skin, as the pigmentation changes will be more visually drastic.. The physical changes wrought by vitiligo can be a source of great stress for the person experiencing them. Those with vitiligo often become self-conscious about their appearance, especially since pigmentation loss normally begins on the face, hands, and feet.

Miss Saunders is a woman who exudes confidence, vitiligo or no vitiligo. She assures Maleeka, who is struggling with her own confidence, that she is long past the point of the judgments of others dragging down her sense of self for the appearance of her skin. Outside of fiction, there are many notable people with vitiligo living full lives in the public eye. Winnie Harlow is a model who came into fame on America’s Next Top Model. She has spoken candidly about her experience growing up as a person with vitiligo, including her experiences with bullying. Her Ted Talk about societal beauty standards and how living with vitiligo has affected how she interacts with them has been widely viewed.

The D-line coach for the New York Jets, Karl Dunbar, has used his NFL platform to talk openly about his experiences growing up with vitiligo. With the help of Coolibar, a sun-protective clothing line, he has successfully started his own foundation. His foundation’s mission will focus on helping kids with low self esteem.

Michaela DePrince is a Sierra Leonean-American professional ballet dancer who also has vitiligo. She dances with the Boston Ballet and has written books about her life in ballet and how vitiligo affected her both in general and as a dancer, an occupation (like modeling) that places heavy emphasis on physical appearance. She is also the author of Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. Her Instagram is worth a visit; make sure to check out her flawless Italian fouettes!

Big Krizz Kaliko is the last of our plugs, but not the last of the incredible list of people being open and public with their experiences with vitiligo. He named his debut album Vitiligo, after the disease. The album went on to hit 167 on the Billboard 200 in May 2008. He talks with fans about his appearance often.

These are just a few of the Miss Saunders of the real world. For more information about these and other famous Vitiligans, check out the VR (Vitiligo Research) Foundation’s website.

This blog is created by Hannah and Ella in conjunction with the These Books Made Me podcast, a Prince George’s County Memorial Library System production. Check out the corresponding episode, The Skin I’m In, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Or you can simply click on the link to the episode to listen.



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