By Lucy Notarantonio
A stunning woman with vitiligo has defied negative comments from people who claimed she was ‘trying to be white’ by becoming a model.
Mariah Perkins, 22, from Maryland, US, first noticed her African American skin was losing its pigment when she was 13 years old.
She was later diagnosed with vitiligo – a condition which causes white patches to develop across the skin due to a lack of melanin – after it spread across her body.
But since Mariah lost the pigment in her face she has been subjected to cruel remarks from people who claimed she was ‘trying to be white’ and who say her face looks like the skin of a cow.
Despite spending years covering her face – and even sleeping in her foundation – Mariah has now learned to love her skin and has even become a model for brands including Coca Cola.
Criminal justice graduate Mariah, who is also a professional dancer, said: “People’s comments greatly affected my self-confidence.
“I was already insecure about how I looked and having vitiligo at the time made me feel worse.
“People have said that I was trying to be white as I’d lost the pigment on my face in a bid to disguise my African American heritage which was so hurtful.
“I felt ugly so I would cover my face completely with makeup to hide my skin because I was ashamed and embarrassed of how I looked.
“I thought people would not want to be around me or not find me attractive.
“When I started university, I overcame it and began to just embrace the fact I am different and find ways to make myself feel beautiful.”
Mariah, whose parents are both African American, is the only member of the family who has the skin condition.
She now regularly takes part in photoshoots, sharing the pictures with thousands of online fans.
Mariah added: “My family have treated me as though nothing changed, they just wanted me to be happy whether I was wearing makeup or not.
“To them, I always will be Mariah. They push me to be my best and they tell me I am beautiful no matter what, they support the changes I have gone through and they express how proud they are of me for what I am doing and who I have become.
“Many people are not exposed to it so it can still be an initial shock, but those that do recognise it, either tend to ignore it and just treat me like a normal person or compliment me.
“Once I finally stopped wearing foundation to mask my condition, I received negative comments stating that I ‘look weird, like a cow’ and was ‘trying to be white,’ and that my skin was ‘ugly and gross’.
“But now I have fully embraced my skin, I rarely hear comments like this as I have learnt to love myself and people can see it, I often get told my skin is unique or pretty.
“I no longer hide under makeup and hope to give others with any type of skin condition the confidence to do the same.
“There is no definite cause and no documented cure for vitiligo but I do not have a disease, I am not contagious, and I am living a healthy life.”