By Candice Fernandez
A self-conscious woman with vitiligo has turned herself into a fashion model after years of bullying.
Enam Heikeens, 25, first began to notice white patches emerging on her arms at the age of seven years old.
After the patches began to spread to the rest of her body, she was diagnosed with skin condition vitiligo – whereby the immune system destroys the pigment in the skin.
Growing up with the condition was a struggle for Enam, she suffered years of bullying at school, with other children believing she was contagious.
But after years of hiding away, Enam finally gained confidence and accepted herself.
She was recently scouted by a modelling agency and now her dreams have come true as she models the latest fashion trends.
Enam said: “I was bullied throughout school because of my skin, I couldn’t hide my condition as I had patches all over my face.
“At school, my class mates wouldn’t go near me because they thought I was contagious.
“I was so depressed about it but five years ago I decided enough was enough.
“My skin condition wasn’t going anywhere so I might as well accept myself.
“Soon after that I was scouted by a modelling agency and I haven’t looked back since.
“I never thought I’d say it, but I love being behind the camera.”
Enam, who is from Ghana, first thought her patches were birth marks but once they began to spread, she became concerned.
She added: “When I was seven, the patches started appearing on my body, my family and I just thought it was birth marks.
“When I went to the hospital, they had no idea what it was.
“It wasn’t until I met another woman with vitiligo who was visiting my school that I found out what I had.
“She also told me learn to accept it because I will be this way for the rest of my life.
“No one in my school, the hospital or society knew what vitiligo was. It’s was a very difficult time.”
After Enam left school, she began training to become a nurse. It was there where she learnt more about vitiligo.
She hopes her modelling will empower women who also have the condition and to learn to love themselves.
Enam said: “When I started training to be a nurse, I started to educate myself more on vitiligo.
“After reading about it and studying it more, I became more confident and embraced it.
“When I went to a vitiligo conference, a modelling agency scouted me. So not only am I a nurse, but now I model too.
“At first I was scared, but now I feel so proud.
“I have now modelled for magazines and clothing brands.
“I want people in the fashion world to know that no matter what weight you are, skin colour you have or how you look – anyone can do it.
The vitiligo model is not only inspiring people through her remarkable photoshoots, but also through her educational and inspiring speeches across her community.
She added: “I feel that even today not many people know what it is, I get messages all the time on social media of people asking if I have been burnt in a fire, or if I am an acid attack victim.
“After learnng more about my condition, I decided I wanted to educate people.
“I’ve been visiting schools and churches, and teaching them about vitiligo.
“I teach people to never stigmatise people with conditions because it was really traumatising for me.
“I know how awful it is to be stigmatised, and I wouldn’t want anyone to experience what I did.
“People need to accept it in society.”
Enam claims years ago not only were her friendships affected, but also her love life.
Enam said: “My relationships were terrible, whoever I dated was embarrassed to be seen with me.
“If I went on dates, the guy would pick somewhere in door, or hidden.
“I’d find out that they would not want to be seen with me, and didn’t want to bump into any friends when they were with me.
“Things have been much better since then anyway. I am in a relationship now and I am really happy.
“We have been together for one year.
“Now I love the skin I am in, and I hope more people will accept vitiligo too.”