A woman with vitiligo has opened up about the cruel insults she’s faced because of her skin condition, revealing she’s been called a ‘dalmatian’ and a ‘spotted N-word’ by complete strangers.
Model, author, actress and business owner, Iomikoe ‘The Vitiligo Goddess’ Johnson, 38, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, was 25 when her skin started to develop white patches under her arm before spreading across the rest of her body.
Over the years, Iomikoe has been the subject of racist jokes, people saying that she isn’t black and has even been labelled a ‘dalmatian’ by trolls online.
Standing tall: Model Iomikoe Johnson, 38, has vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose its pigment, resulting in white patches across the body
Cruel: The mother-of-four, who calls herself ‘The Vitiligo Goddess’, has faced a slew of racist abuse from people who have made fun of her condition
Looking ahead: Iomikoe, pictured when she was younger, only began showing symptoms of her vitiligo when she was 25. Before that, there was no indication that it was developing
Strong: The grandmother-of-three, pictured before she developed vitiligo, says she won’t let cruel bullies make her feel bad about herself
Iomikoe, who is a mother-of-four and grandmother-of-three has risen above these comments and uses them as an example of how not to treat others and has launched a successful modeling career.
It is Iomikoe’s passion to help other young girls living with vitiligo and to give them a positive and real-life role model to look up to, after only having supermodel, Winnie Harlow to look up to herself when she was coming to terms with her skin condition and has been working hard to redefine beauty.
Support: Iomikoe has written a book about a girl who develops vitiligo in high school
She has written a book, The Spotted Girl Who Empowered the World, which will be available to pre-order on Amazon in March this year to help other young girls with vitiligo to confront their insecurities head on so that their confidence can grow despite what social media or the internet dictates as being beautiful.
It’s not just girls with vitiligo that Iomikoe hopes to inspire; she has always aimed to empower her own daughters, Shianna, 21, and Amaya, 19, who have both started modeling.
‘Some of the comments I have received have been flat out disrespectful; people have called me a cow, a dalmatian and they have made racist jokes saying that because I am turning white, my credit would be good now,’ said Iomikoe.
‘Others have made outrageous comments saying I’m not black and while I was out for Mardi Gras last year a man call me a spotted N-word whilst I was out with my grandson, children and cousin.
‘I am inspiring others who look like me, who are different like me to love the skin they’re in no matter what stupid people have to say and I thought about the younger generation who have vitiligo because you can get vitiligo regardless of age, race or gender, at any time of your life.
Role model: The model hopes that her book will help other young women with vitiligo, as well as any other girl who feels insecure about herself or her appearance
‘Firecracker’: Iomikoe admits that the insults she receives are hurtful, but she insists that she still sees her condition as a gift
Upsetting: ‘People have called me a cow, a dalmatian and they have made racist jokes saying that because I am turning white, my credit would be good now,’ Iomikoe revealed
‘I could only imagine if those words hurt me as an adult, how they would hurt a child or teenager but thank god I’m secure in who I am and I’m confident in who I am and I have a support system who have built me up to know my worth but not every person has that.
‘So I wrote a book, it talks about a young girl who got vitiligo in her freshman year of going to high school.
‘The story is about a young girl who not only has to deal with that but she now has to face the fact that she has vitiligo and there is no cure but she also has to deal with the fact that she’s a teenager and young woman living in a society that defines the standard of beauty by having the perfect body.
‘When I first started my journey, I didn’t have anyone to relate to except for Winnie Harlow and she’s a supermodel, [so] I want to help them heal.
‘I want to teach them to accept that they are different and just because they’re different doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful, different is beautiful.
‘I want to help them find the beauty within themselves and help them find the healing within themselves, I want to teach them to acknowledge, accept and then heal and that they can do anything they set their minds to and that their true power lies within.
‘Vitiligo is not a curse, it’s a gift to show society that no one race is better than the other and that God made everything beautiful.
Inspiring: Iomikoe has found immense support in her fiance, Phillip, who she is pictured with
The next generation: The model has also inspired her own daughters, Amaya and Shianna, to forget their own modeling careers
Proud: ‘My daughters have followed in my footsteps and are modeling as well which makes me so proud. It makes my heart smile to see them follow in my footsteps,’ Iomikoe said
Family: Iomikoe praised her family for being so supportive of her, and for always helping her to feel confident
‘The freaking internet is a curse and a gift, a lot of actresses’ and musicians’ and models’ photos are Photoshopped and they’re giving a false sense of what the normal human body looks like, so these younger girls are wanting to look like them and that isn’t even realistic because they don’t even look like that in real life.
‘There are all these makeup blogs and YouTube bloggers that are showing girls how to put on makeup but they’re piling it on.
‘Makeup is supposed to enhance your beauty not make you look like a whole different person, what’s wrong with natural beauty?’
Iomikoe’s children, grandchildren and fiancé, Phillip, have been there throughout her journey to self-acceptance and are so proud of how she is using her experience with vitiligo to help others.
Around one per cent of the world’s population, or around 50 million people, have vitiligo. Iomikoe has non-stop segmental vitiligo which has turned into universal vitiligo which will eventually see her body turn completely white.
Iomikoe spoke out about how her family have supported her, how her daughters have followed in her footsteps and why it’s important for young people to talk openly about their insecurities.
‘They [family] have been so amazing. They’re so proud of me and tell me every time I accomplish something. My mom has some of my modeling pictures up in her home and she brags every chance she gets,’ she said.
‘My daughters have followed in my footsteps and are modeling as well which makes me so proud. It makes my heart smile to see them follow in my footsteps.
Grandma: Iomikoe, pictured with her three grandchildren, says she wants to use her condition to ‘show society that no one race is better than the other’
Believe in yourself: The proud mom, pictured with her daughter, says she has always taught her own children to pursue their dreams, no matter what
Future: Iomikoe, pictured with her son, hopes to be able to spread that message to others
‘I tell them both all the time, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. They tell me; ‘if you can do it mom, so can we’ and they’re so beautiful on the inside and out with beautiful hearts I teach them to set examples for others.
‘I inspired them to follow their dreams and walk into their purpose.
‘It’s better to release your emotions than bottle them in, once you release your fears, you can face your truth and get the help you may need.
‘Help from family, friends, counselors, teachers and maybe even coaches, whatever is best for you, and then you can begin your healing.’
Lastly, Iomikoe shared her words of advice to others.
‘First I want people to know that they are painted with a purpose and that beauty starts from within, you may face obstacles along your journey to self-confidence and self-love but it’s your journey, take your time,’ she added.
‘Don’t allow people to place their fears on to you, find your peace within you and your family or whoever you seek comfort in. The key to your healing is to acknowledge and heal.
‘Once you’ve reached that place, lend a helping hand and a helping heart to someone else that might be struggling and continue to spread the love and healing.’