As a teacher for many years now, I take people for who they are, and not what they look like. I guess this is what happened when I met Telisha for the very first time, and why I didn´t notice she was a little different.Telisha is a counselor at the school where I work as an elementary teacher. She always greets students and peers with a genuine smile. She captivates both students and fellow teachers.

At first glance, I didn’t realize that she is what I would call “perfectly flawed.” Telisha has vitiligo, a condition characterized by irregular discoloration of the skin. The children at school are often curious about the map-like imprints on her arms.

The first time I noticed Telisha had vitiligo was when one of my students made a blunt comment about the appearance of her skin. I felt bad for her, and tried to explain to the child how our words can sometimes hurt others. In order to help him understand the condition, I decided to ask Telisha about it.

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When Telisha was just nine years old, her mother noticed an unusual spot on her back and they immediately went to the dermatologist where she was diagnosed with vitiligo. That little spot did not develop into anything bigger for a few years, until she was 12 and it began to spread.

Telisha shared with me that when her vitiligo became more noticeable she began to wear long sleeve shirts even in 90-degree weather, which of course drew more attention. “I was feeling insecure, and I didn’t look like everyone else,” she shared. She also confessed to gaining weight on purpose, thinking that it would draw attention away from her changing skin pigmentation. She recalls the most ignorant comments coming from adults. A stranger at the train station once asked her, “Why don’t you just bleach all your skin?”

Telisha has tried a pro-topic skin cream, but she had to discontinue it because it wasn´t FDA approved. It was supposed to slow down the spread of vitiligo, but it only made her skin look shinier.

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