February 2020

My Story

I was 10 years old when I first noticed my vitiligo and I had no idea what it was. At first, I thought it was result of one of many grazes I got when playing football at school in the playground and I just carried on being a 10 year old.

The battles began in the following years. The mental and emotional sides of having vitiligo I found hard to cope with. I found myself becoming an introvert, not going out, worrying what people would do or say and feeling the worst when people stared. I was skipping social gatherings, wearing clothes that covered my vitiligo, gloves in summer and anything that would make me feel comfortable. I really hated my skin, had zero confidence and wished I could be ‘normal’.

The toughest moment of my life to date was losing my father in 2012, after which my vitiligo became very aggressive and took over 40-50% of my body.

I am 35 years old now and I have been through a rollercoaster journey. From not knowing what vitiligo was and experiencing the difficult mental and emotional battles it caused, to trying every medicine I could find before finally embracing and accepting my vitiligo.

To The Vitiligo Society and beyond

I began to do some volunteering for a non-profit charity I came across, The Vitiligo Society. This included modelling in a photoshoot to launch their new website. I had no experience at all - but was surprised to find I felt comfortable around cameras with my new-found confidence. Since then, I was astounded to have been offered an external modelling contract with the UK’s leading talent agencies ‘Zebedee Management’, specialising in those with differences, difficulties or disabilities.

Vitiligo in the workplace

Working in an organisation which has a huge emphasis on celebrating diversity and inclusion, plus being surrounded by the most amazing colleagues, has only helped me during my time at Sky.

It wasn’t until I attended an annual sports day event that I had to really confront my anxiety around vitiligo. Most of my peers would be comfortably dressed in shorts and t-shirts (we were in the middle of a big heatwave in the summer). I, on the other hand, felt that familiar panic having to expose my skin to my colleagues and wanted to cover up.

At this point, despite never having proactively spoken out about vitiligo before, I decided to send an email round to my colleagues to let them know how I felt. I was taken aback by just how supportive their responses were. For the first time, I had spoken up about my anxiety and was pleasantly surprised to receive kindness, empathy and support from my peers. I actually felt fine about wearing the same clothes as everyone else. Unexpectedly, this was the start of a new, empowering journey for me.

Two things I had learnt from the experience were: Firstly, so much more needs to be done to actively support those with vitiligo. Secondly, I felt so empowered, I wanted to help others and do all I can to raise awareness about vitiligo.

My message

I feel people with vitiligo are still extremely underrepresented in society and culture. There should and could be so much more representation. This would help raise awareness and make it even easier for people with vitiligo, just like myself, to embrace the condition.

Organisations such as the British Skin Foundation work tirelessly researching all types of skin conditions, whilst doing their upmost to raise awareness. I can only thank the BSF for giving me and my vitiligo a platform, a chance to share my story.

It doesn't matter what colour your skin is, what makes you different, makes you beautiful.

Kirps Bhogal

Find Kirps on Instagram @a.patchy.indian

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Photo credit: Dan Clarke