You might not have realized that the death date of music legend, Michael Jackson and World Vitiligo Day happen to fall on the same day. Actually, Michael Jackson is the muse behind the World Vitiligo day.
At the height of Michael Jackson’s outstanding musical career, his skin started to change colour and he began to look ‘whiter’ than normal. He was consistently accused of bleaching his skin with hydroquinone and other chemicals so he could look more like a white man. This and other changes in his physical appearance, also fuelled further rumours of cosmetic surgery that he fought all through his lifetime.
What many didn’t know was that Michael was suffering from Vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches due to the death of the cells that produce melanin or melanin cells that stop functioning (Melanin refers to pigments in the body that give us our skin colour, hair colour and eye colour).
In an exclusive interview with Oprah in 1993, Michael revealed to the world that he was suffering from Vitiligo and that he had been consistently masking the blotches with make-up.
Michael said, “I’m a black American. I am proud to be a black American. I am proud of my race, and I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity of who I am… I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin. It’s something I cannot help. When people make up stories that I don’t like who I am, it hurts me.”
Many still did not believe him after the interview, even in death. However, his claims were confirmed in an autopsy report after his death. Michael’s experience, along with that of many others who have suffered discrimination, has brought about the global call for World Vitiligo Day – as a day to spread word about Vitiligo.
Here are a few key points to note about Vitiligo:
- Vitiligo is not contagious
- Vitiligo tends to run in families
- Vitiligo is not painful and does not have significant health consequences; but it can have emotional and psychological consequences.
- Vitiligo may affect the colour of body hair
- Vitiligo is not associated with the degree of one’s intelligence. It does not influence the brain, nor any other part of the body; the effects of vitiligo are restricted exclusively to the skin.
Don’t look down on those living with Vitiligo. Nothing has really changed about them.