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Chef Dean Edwards on vitiligo 

We’ve caught up with TV chef Dean Edwards to talk vitiligo. 

Dean, being a chef on ITV’s Lorraine means you’re putting yourself in the spotlight and viewers can easily see your vitiligo. Did you ever consider not appearing on TV because of your condition?

I never considered not doing television because of my vitiligo but I did make the conscious decision to cover up my condition. Looking back I’m not sure whether this was the right thing to do but I guess we only act on what we feel is right at the time. If, on rare occasions, I didn’t cover up on my hands I would get some funny comments on social media regarding the terrible job I had done with my fake tan… ha ha. Funnily enough these very comments eventually drove me to confront my condition head on and start to really accept it.

Has your vitiligo ever held you back at all?

I’ve never let my condition hold me back, ever! Neither will I let it in the future too. It is what it is and it’s something I deal with on a daily basis. I actually find it frustrating in a strange way, I find new patches and I’m disappointed, but every day I grow to love and accept that it is part of me, and what makes me an individual. I’m not quite there yet but I’m edging closer. The blog post that I wrote opened up a lot of doors for me in regards to spreading a positive message about vitiligo. At this very moment of writing this I’m in London getting ready to be interviewed by the lovely Lorraine Kelly about the condition. It’s actually going to be the first time I appear on TV with no make-up on my face, not even my family have really seen me without the areas on my face covered, so I’m slightly nervous. I have large patches beneath my beard and its developing around my eyes, I’m lucky in many respects as it’s not too noticeable, but I’m still conscious of it.

You mentioned in this blog post that you have received comments on social media about your vitiligo. Were they always negative or did you receive some positive comments too? Has this ever put you off using social media?

Social media is a big part of what I do and it’s an incredible tool for me to share what I do with the public – whether it’s my recipes or my blog. I’ve had negative comments in the past but these are mostly uninformed, passing comments from people, assuming I’ve washed layers of fake tan off. The reaction after I published my vitiligo blog was incredible; I literally received hundreds of amazing and positive messages, even from people that suffered from different skin conditions. It really did make going public with such a personal thing sooooo worth it.

What would you say to someone who is being bullied because of their vitiligo or another skin condition?

What I love about vitiligo is that it makes us individual. We are living in an age where everything we do is being documented on social media. We all tend to post images portraying a perfect existence; no one really tends to post images of our so-called flaws. What I am starting to see, are people realising that what makes us different also makes us beautiful. I’m definitely starting to learn to embrace my condition.

What would you say to someone who has just been diagnosed with vitiligo? Do you have any advice?

It’s hard to say as I’ve had it ever since I can remember, but what I will say is that it’s never easy noticing new patches developing on areas of my body that I previously didn’t have any. There are actually lots of support out there, guys like you at the British Skin Foundation and the Vitiligo Society. One thing I have found really empowering is following the amazing pictures on Instagram of guys like photographer Brock Elbank, whose images are incredible. But it’s the subjects themselves that are the true works of art, completely beautiful and comfortable in their own skin – truly amazing.

Have you ever considered using skin camouflage make-up to hide the condition?

I use makeup most days, every day I consider going out and not covering the patches on my face, but most of the time I do cave in and stick some make up on them. However, I’m starting to feel that it’s definitely going to become the norm that I cover up less and less. I’m not quite there yet but I’m on the right path.

Do you think vitiligo and other skin conditions are becoming more accepted with models like Winnie Harlow and programmes like Katie Piper’s Face to Face on Channel 4?

I think people are always going to stare at those who are different, not necessarily in a malicious way, I think we are just inquisitive by nature. I’ve definitely seen a trend where vitiligo is becoming more and more mainstream, loads of models on the catwalk sporting white patches. I’m buzzing that shows like Katie’s are showcasing vitiligo as it kind of goes under the radar. Funnily enough I’m actually sensing its almost becoming fashionable at the minute ha ha! We will see.

Do you have any friends with vitiligo and if so has that helped you?

I didn’t know anybody with it, though in the last few years both my Mum and my nephew have developed it, so I can offer advice. Through filming the vitiligo segment on Lorraine I met an incredible lady called Natalie, who at one point had vitiligo over 70% of her body. Wow, she was so inspirational with her story, plus the way she has slowly changed her mind-set had a massive impact on me. Just talking to her that day, I made more progress in terms of acceptance than I had done at any point in my life. I find it heart breaking when parents of kids with the condition message me and ask advice for their little ones. I always try to offer support, as I know how tough it can be.

Thanks so much for chatting to us today Dean!

Follow Dean on Twitter here.

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