Michael Jackson, Winnie Harlow, Steve Martin, and other celebrities who suffered (or still suffer) from vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. The condition occurs when pigment-producing cells die or stop functioning, and it affects any part of the body.
Learning about vitiligo for the first time almost a decade ago is a memory that remains fresh to date. I had just made the acquaintance of someone who had these unusual patches of skin on their leg and had innocently asked what was responsible for them. “Vitiligo,” they simply replied. The blank look on my face was enough proof that I had absolutely no idea what that meant. They explained briefly what it meant, and I soon got online to learn more.
It affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. Interestingly, the condition is not fatal or life-threatening. The worst it mostly does is affect the sufferer’s confidence and self-esteem. Also, the condition is incurable, and although treatment may restore color to the affected skin, it doesn’t prevent continued loss of skin color or a recurrence.
Globally about 1% of people are affected by vitiligo, and interestingly, a good number of celebrities fall under this small group. Some of them you may already know, and some you may not. Here are seven famous people who have/had vitiligo.
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1. Michael Jackson
Easily the most famous person who lived with the disease was pop king, Michael Jackson. You may be one of those who wondered why Wacko Jacko ever got a cosmetic surgery. Well, it turns out the music icon had Vitiligo and really struggled with it psychologically. Consequently, he went to great lengths to hide the disorder. He started by wearing gloves, and eventually bleached his skin. It can be argued that he would have been an inspiration and source of courage for others who have the disease if he wore it with pride. But, it must also be considered that having a rare condition on top of being black in a predominantly anti-black industry must have been more daunting than one may imagine.
2. Winnie Harlow
Call her the Vitiligo queen, and you won’t be wrong. Born Chantelle Whitney Brown-Young, the Jamaican-Canadian fashion model is a public spokesperson on the skin condition. Winnie became popular in 2014 as a contestant on the 21st cycle of the U.S. television series America’s Next Top Model. She used her vitiligo to her advantage, as it gave her a striking appearance that many found both alluring and mesmerizing. Winnie has been an inspiration to people living with the condition, and she has shown that if worn elegantly enough, it could even make one look prettier.
3. Steve Martin
American actor, musician and comedian, Stephen Glenn Martin, is a highly decorated entertainer. He dominated the stand-up comedy scene for decades, and killed it in music and acting too. With five Grammy Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award, and an honorary Academy Awards, you could call him an overachiever. Not many people know of this, but Steve has lived with vitiligo for a very long time. His is, however, not the type that is too obvious, so, he has been able to live without it being noticed.
4. Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Abdul Wallace is an American men’s basketball coach for the Memphis Tigers, and former professional basketball player. In his prime as a player, he was one of the all-around best in the league. Wallace holds the single-season record for technical fouls. In the 2000–01 season, Wallace received 41 technical fouls over a span of 80 games, about one technical foul for every two games. He is one of the few famous people living with Vitiligo.
5. John Hamm
Jonathan Daniel Hamm is an American actor and producer known for his role as Don Draper in the television series Mad Men. His performance earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama in 2008 and 2016. He also won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 2015. Hamm’s vitiligo is a rare form of the disease. According to him, it is triggered by stress, appearing only on his hands.
6. Thomas Lennon
Thomas Patrick Lennon is an American actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer, director and novelist. He is best known for his roles in projects like, The State, Reno 911, and Odd Couple, among others. Lennon is also an accomplished screenwriter of several major studio comedies like the Night at the Museum films, The Pacifier, Balls of Fury, and Baywatch. The actor has vitiligo on his hands, hips, and face, but his skin color makes it less obvious. As earlier stated, the disease is more noticeable in people with darker skin.
7. Joe Rogan
Born Joseph James Rogan, the American comedian is a former TV host, podcaster, and UFC color commentator. Joe Rogan started his comedy career in the late 1980s in Boston. He was the host of TV show Fear Factor for five years between 2001 and 2006. In recent times, Joe has been more popular for his widely successful podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan has been living with Vitiligo for several years, and it mostly affects his hands and wrists.
There you have it. As you must have noticed, the disease affects different body parts, and behaves differently from person to person. While it is concealed and less totally unnoticeable for some, it is much more pronounced for others.
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