A model with vitiligo that has turned half of her body white has opened up about the brutal criticism and ‘rejection’ she faces from other people of color who have alienated her from their community because of her skin condition.
Model and single mom-of-three Bailey Ramirez, 30, was first diagnosed with the skin condition when she was 19 years old, after she found a small white spot on her elbow. However when she fell pregnant at age 20, the vitiligo started spreading across her body, leaving her with large white patches on her face, arms, and legs.
Although Ramirez has learned to embrace her unique looks and her condition – which causes a lack of melanin production in the skin, resulting in the white patches – she admits that her appearance has made her the target of cruel comments from strangers, who have compared her to Michael Jackson and even branded her a ‘sexy cow’.
Her white skin has also seen her face rejection from other people of color, with the mother-of-three – who is based in LA and is known as Qween Bay on social media – revealing that she has been alienated by the diverse communities that she was once a part of.
Struggle: A model, 30, who developed vitiligo at age 19 has revealed how the condition – which has now turned half her body white – has seen her ‘rejected’ by other people of color
Brave: Bailey Ramirez, from Los Angeles, says she has also faced cruel comments from strangers, who have compared her to Michael Jackson and branded her a ‘sexy cow’
Proud: Despite the negativity that she’s had to deal with, Bailey has learned to embrace her unique looks and she now regularly celebrates them on social media
‘It began at the age of 19 and has spread over the course of the last 12 years,’ she explained. ‘It feels like I’ve had vitiligo my whole life, but it’s really only been my adult life.’
‘People react in so many different ways. Sometimes they stare, or they compliment me, or they offer a “miracle cure.”‘
‘I’ve received negative comments – people ask what’s wrong with my skin, if I’m trying to copy Michael Jackson, or even call me a sexy cow.
‘[These negative comments] naturally rub me the wrong way, but I’ve learnt not to internalize them. I know that [these people are] just projecting their inner demons onto me, and that has nothing to do with me.’
She is very aware of the existence of colorism – the societal bias towards people with lighter skin tones – and her vitiligo means she is now over 50 per cent white in skin tone.
Although she admits that she has ‘benefited’ from colorism because she is considered ‘white passing’ by many, she has also found herself ostracized by the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities that she is a part of.
‘As a mixed-race individual, having vitiligo highlights my racial ambiguity even more. It’s harder for people to see me as African, Asian or Indigenous, while my facial features and brown skin separates me from my European heritage,’ Bailey said.
‘I benefit greatly from colorism – I’m less likely to be seen as a threat or racially profiled because my skin is covered with the most accepted skin tone.
‘I’m more likely to be rejected by the ethnic communities I represent, because I resemble them even less than I previously did.’
Growth: Bailey (pictured as a child) was only diagnosed with vitiligo 12 years ago, but she says she feels as though she has had it ‘her whole life’
Opening up: ‘As a mixed-race individual, having vitiligo highlights my racial ambiguity even more. It’s harder for people to see me as African, Asian or Indigenous,’ she explained
Truly a Queen: Over the course of her life, 50 per cent of her skin tone has changed, but she learned to celebrate her condition and promote diversity in the modeling industry
Despite the negative reactions to her condition, Bailey is determined to embrace her unique looks – and to show them off in the hopes of helping others learn to love everything about themselves.
When she was first diagnosed with the condition, the model turned to other sufferers for advice, explaining that she sought out support groups in order to better understand her vitiligo and how to deal with it.
‘I joined support groups and found a community to be part of, full of people who looked like me and were dealing with the same things I was.
‘I had to deal with learning how to accept my skin as it continuously changed.
‘Vitiligo is my normal, so I’ve never seen it as abnormal. I simply knew it was different, and I knew I was going to deal with a world that would always remind me just how different I was, because of its own insane standards of normality.’
Having learned to accept and embrace her looks, Bailey was given the opportunity to share her new-found confidence with the world when a photographer contacted her through Instagram in 2019 and asked her to model for a shoot.
Since then, she has forged a new career as a model – and says she hopes to use her public platform to help others with their own struggles, while also advocating for more diversity within the fashion industry.
Bailey now uses her eye-catching appearance to her advantage and appreciates the opportunity it has given her to represent vitiligo within the industry.
She admits to gaining some benefits from colorism – the societal bias towards people with lighter skin tones – but experienced alienation from the minorities she represents, as a result
Ramirez works hard to create a more diverse space in the industry and to set an example of self-acceptance and love
‘Living with the trauma of having this condition is hard. Not accepting yourself is hard and not loving yourself is hard. It’s not ever easy, but it is very simple – if you don’t accept you, no one else will,’ she said.
‘Being a diverse model is of the utmost importance to me. I want to be a voice for those who don’t feel they have one. I’m going to use my influence to create more inclusion and ally-ship in the industry I love.
‘I adore my skin and how different I am because of it. Professionally, I always stand out in a lineup of beautiful women. I will always be the first one noticed, so it’s landed me a lot of opportunities career-wise.
‘Diversity is trending, and the industry is changing in a big way. As a 30-year-old single mother of three, with vitiligo and stretchmarks, I represent a large portion of the population who has felt excluded for these things. I do what I do for them as much as I do for me.
‘So many people with our condition struggle in different ways because of different experiences and circumstances. The message I want to send is that it’s okay to feel however you feel. ‘
Prominent celebrities like supermodel Winnie Harlow – who also has vitiligo – have also helped Bailey accept and embrace her skin and pushed her to meet other people dealing with the condition.
‘What did help me love and accept my skin was having examples like Winnie Harlow to look up to.
Bailey’s commitment to self-love has helped her through the more difficult parts of her journey, like finding a place to belong as a mixed-race woman with vitiligo. She has become determined to carve a space for herself so that other people can follow in her footsteps.
The ins and outs of vitiligo: Why does the condition cause white skin patches and can it be treated?
Vitiligo is a disease in which the pigment cells of the skin are destroyed in certain areas of the body.
Although the exact cause is unknown, experts say it is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks and destroys certain cells within the body.
It’s not painful and doesn’t have significant health consequences, but it can have emotional and psychological consequences.
Treatment ranges from medicines and creams to skin grafts.
Common areas for white patches are the armpits and groin, around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, navel, genitals and rectal areas.
Symptoms include loss of skin color with white patches of skin in any location on the body.
Most will develop the condition prior to age 40. About half develop it before age 20.
It may have a genetic component, as the condition tends to run in families.
Source: Medicine Net