DETROIT — Lee Thomas’ skin is betraying him.
His once brown, even complexion is now mottled with pale patches around his eyes and mouth, along his nose and on his ears; his arms, shoulders and chest are speckled and blotched.
“I’m a black man turning white on television and people can see it,” says Thomas, an anchor and entertainment reporter for the local Fox Broadcasting Company affiliate. “If you’ve watched me over the years, you’ve seen my hands completely change from brown to white.”
Thomas has vitiligo, a disorder in which pigment-making cells are destroyed. White patches appear on different parts of the body, tissues in the mouth and nose, and the retina.
“There is no cause. There is no cure, and it’s very random,” Thomas says. “I could turn all the way white or mostly white.”
Thomas first noticed a change after getting a haircut while working in Louisville He looked in a mirror and thought the barber had nicked him. A closer look revealed a pale spot, about the size of a quarter
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo or leukoderma is a chronic skin condition that causes loss of pigment, resulting in irregular pale patches of skin. The precise cause of vitiligo is complex and not fully understood. There is some evidence suggesting it is caused by a combination of auto-immune, genetic, and environmental factors.
Half of people with vitiligo develop patches of de-pigmented skin appearing on extremities before their 20s. The patches may grow, shrink, or remain constant in size. Patches often occur symmetrically across both sides on the body. Occasionally small areas may repigment as they are recolonised by melanocytes. The location of vitiligo affected skin changes over time, with some patches re-pigmenting and others becoming affected.
In some cases, mild trauma to an area of skin seems to cause new patches – for example around the ankles (caused by friction with shoes or sneakers). Vitiligo may also be caused by stress that affects the immune system, leading the body to react and start eliminating skin pigment.
Vitiligo on the scalp may affect the color of the hair (though not always), leaving white patches or streaks. It will similarly affect facial and body hair.
Some symptoms are:
white patches on the skin, including the face, limbs, torso, and groin
white patches on mucous membranes and around the eyes, nostrils, and mouth, premature graying of hair, sun sensitivity.
Vitiligo can have a significant effect on the psychological well being of the patient. This is especially true for darker skinned patients as the contrast between pigmented and depigmented skin can be quite drastic.
In some cultures there is a stigma attached to having vitiligo. Those affected with the condition are sometimes thought to be evil or diseased and are sometimes shunned by others in the community. People with vitiligo may feel depressed because of this stigma or because their appearance has changed dramatically. Other people with vitiligo experience no negative psychological effects at all.
more about Vitiligo on Wikipedia
They also said that Michael Jackson has Vitiligo. I remember watching a film about his ‘whitishness’, and the explanation according to that film was that the fireworks stage effects during one of his performances went awry that some “coals of fire” on his head(how true, but who knows), burning his scalp etc, and as a result he tried to hide it with makeup etc., Now, this guy says he had Vitiligo. He even went on Oprah to talk about his condition, and that then, not many people knew about the disease, so he tried to hide it from the world – which further deepened his Whitish mystery. As much as the whole world believes he bleached,
When studying a photograph of Jackson taken at the time, Lipkin’s initial reaction was to call it “the most unusual case of vitiligo I’ve ever seen.”
Although she said it was possible that Jackson started bleaching his skin because of the disease — in order to blend his natural darker tone with the lighter blotches that were appearing — she also said that a lighter skin seemed consistent with other changes that she believes Jackson made to his features.
“When you look at the other features, the skin bleaching sort of goes along with what I think was his quest for beauty,” she said. “So I have to wonder what came first? Vitiligo or lighter skin?”
I think this is the question I’m interested in: which came first, Vitiligo or Bleaching. A full review of Michael Jackson’s Vitiligo/Bleaching analysis is done here: Full information on Vitiligo: Michael Jackson
Some good points:
Michael’s makeup artist for over 20 years, Karen Faye comments:
“It started happening relatively early, he even was trying to hide it from me..he tried to hide it for quite awhile. He’d always try to cover it with makeup and even out his skin tone until it got so extensive. It’s all over his body. We were always trying to hide it and cover it for the longest time until he just had to tell Oprah and tell the world, ‘Listen I’m not trying to be white, I have a skin disease.’ In the beginning I tried to cover the light spots to match the darker part of his skin, but then it became so extensive that we had to go with the lighter part of his skin because his whole body was reacting…he’d have to be in complete full body makeup, every inch of his body. So it was easier to make the transition to him being to the lighter shade that he is.”
Michael’s mother tells us:
“His face is white because he has had this disease, and instead of having it spotted like a cow or something like that he just decided to just do the whole thing, because he could afford to do it.”
There are a whole lot of Vitiligo Wannabe‘s in Nigeria – i’m reporting from Lagos state. If only this Vitiligo thing could be seriously researched about and most especially reverse engineered so that rather than having ‘antivitiligo’ drugs, there could be some ‘pro-Vitiligo drugs’, I think such a Pharmaceutical firm would make it big in Nigeria, then in Africa.
Sometimes I come across some women who have bleached beyond repair and all I can do is to shake my head and wonder: WHY, O Why!