God bless winnie! A grandmother has bared all to show that ‘beauty is beyond skin’ after learning to embrace the vitiligo which will one day turn her skin completely white and previously left her suicidal.
Model, business owner, and mother-of-four Iomikoe Johnson, 37, from Lake Charles, Louisiana first noticed a tiny spot of white skin under her arm 12-years ago.
At first, she thought she had cancer but it then spread to her eyes and genital area.
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At just 25-years-old, Iomikoe was scared that she would be bullied for being ‘two different colours’ after spending her childhood being taunted for having dark skin.
Iomikoe contemplated taking her own life as strangers would stare at her in the streets with some even refusing to shake her hand.
She would spend up to an hour a day on her makeup to cover up and would only wear long sleeved clothes.
It wasn’t until her fiancé Phillip told her that he loved her no matter what that she decided to ditch the makeup bag.
‘I got vitiligo when I was twenty-five-years-old and I’ll never forget it, I was devastated, I felt like my world had been shattered,’ she said.
‘My first spot was under my arm where no one could see. When I was a kid, I used to get bullied for having dark skin and now I’m two different colours, so I feared I would have to re-live that experience all over again.
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‘It was painful and devastating I even thought of taking my own life many times, but I had kids which kept me going.
‘People used to look at my hands and not want to touch me and they didn’t want to shake my hand. People stared and said very mean, disrespectful things to me and children were afraid of me.
I didn’t know what this was, I thought it was cancer at first. I was scared and very emotionally depressed I didn’t know what was going on with my body, my parents were also concerned but told me no matter what they will always love me and they told me not to worry.’
Iomikoe has four children and two grandchildren and says that despite initially being petrified of her vitiligo, she loves being different and wouldn’t be able to exist without it.
She admits that her family encouraged her to embrace it and she’s now a model and wants the world to see her body as art, walking human art.
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‘Well it would take me forty-five minutes to an hour to put makeup on to cover spots and it was becoming very tiring,’ she explained.
‘My fiancé told me that I didn’t need to do it anymore because he loves me no matter if I wore makeup or not. One day I woke up and I saw this picture on my Facebook of Winnie Harlow, the vitiligo model and I was like oh my god she’s so beautiful.
‘She has the same skin disease as me and she embraced her beauty so I thought why shouldn’t I do the same.
‘I woke up one day and I didn’t put on any makeup and since that day I haven’t worn makeup I was tired of people defining what they think is beautiful and it was my job to show them that beauty is beyond skin.
‘I want people to be empowered by my story and for them to remove the mask of feeling judged.
‘I want them to know that I’m cheering them on and that they are freaking beautiful creatures and “spotted with a purpose”.
‘Vitiligo can appear at any time in your life and all races can get it, vitiligo is not prejudiced anyone can get it at any time at any age.’