REAL LIFE

My patchwork skin found me love

Such a beautiful couple!

Being happy in her own skin led April Mitchell, 27, to love.

Here, April, tells the story in her own words.

As I plonked myself down at the kitchen table, my mum Lori passed me a drink.

‘How was school today?’ she smiled.

‘OK,’ I shrugged. ‘Someone called me a cow and a dog. I don’t care though, I love animals!’

‘Good for you,’ Mum beamed proudly.

I was only six years old but already I was getting picked on because of my blotchy skin condition.

I started to develop vitiligo at just eight months, which meant my skin was covered in light and dark patches.

Never knowing anything else, I didn’t mind my condition at all, but in primary school I was often laughed at.

‘Why is your skin chocolate and vanilla?’ one boy sniggered.

Mum taught me to be confident
Mum taught me to be confident

‘It’s how I am,’ I shrugged. Mum had always taught me that.

‘Remember your skin is what makes you unique,’ she told me.

Growing up, I went for regular check-ups with dermatologists.

They didn’t know what caused it and said that it shouldn’t cause me any harm.

I was taught to be confident, but I still hated being stared at in the street.

‘I want to show you how special you are,’ Mum said.

She would drag me around schools as she gave talks about vitiligo and she even wrote a book, Different, Just Like Me.

I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t alone but I never met others with vitiligo.

I wonder if there’s anyone else out there, I thought.

I had a great group of friends, but I wanted to find people like me.

In 2012, as an adult, I searched social media for posts about vitiligo.

‘Did you find anything?’ Mum asked.

‘Just lots of medical pictures,’ I frowned.

What I really wanted was a community. ‘I should do it myself,’ I said to Mum.

I made friends all over the world by posting photos
I made friends all over the world by posting photos

So I took some pictures, posted them on Instagram and tagged them ‘vitiligo’.

Soon, I was flooded with messages. I love your feed! people wrote.

Some even told me I was encouraging them to show their skin more.

Before long, I was chatting to people with vitiligo from all over the world and even started to make friends.

One day, a man called Armando commented on a post, telling me how much he loved my stuff.

Clicking on his profile, I saw he also had vitiligo and a string of funny posts.

He’s not bad to look at either! I thought.

I replied and soon the comments became flirtier and he would message me privately.

I met Armando in person at a vitiligo event
I met Armando in person at a vitiligo event

Do you like football? Armando asked. I have tickets to a game if you’re up for it.

We’d been talking for a while and I was starting to really like him, but Armando lived two hours away.

It’s too far, otherwise I would love to! I replied.

I had to accept that we would just be friends but, in time, our conversation fizzled out – until four years later when my friend organised a vitiligo event.

Are you going? I eagerly messaged Armando. I’m going to try! he replied.

I couldn’t believe that we were finally going to meet.

On the day, in September 2017, I made sure to look my best.

But when I got there, Armando was nowhere to be seen! Are you still coming? I messaged him.

I kept checking my phone but there was nothing.

He must’ve changed his mind, I thought, my heart sinking.

Sitting down, I watched as the first talk began.

Then, I noticed him walk through the doors, 20 minutes late.

He was just as gorgeous in person as in his photos and as soon as the speech was over, he walked over to me. ‘I’m glad to finally meet you,’ he grinned.

We only spoke briefly before he had to leave, but I couldn’t stop smiling.

It felt really special to meet a man with vitiligo – it was almost like we’d known each other all our lives.

Plus Armando was tall, dark and funny! So I immediately started messaging him again. Was lovely to meet you! I said.

I feel so lucky to have met Armando
I feel so lucky to have met Armando (Credit: Jamaica Sandoval)

You too, we should do it again, Armando replied.

Plucking up the courage, I suggested he come and visit me.

When he agreed, I knew he was going to be someone important to me.

I took him to my favourite restaurant and at the end we arranged another date.

‘I’ll see you next week,’ I grinned.

We messaged every day until he came back to visit the following week.

‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ Armando asked. ‘Of course!’ I smiled.

For months, we would meet at a town halfway between us both, but we really started to struggle.

‘I hate not getting to see you,’ Armando said.

‘Why don’t you move here?’ I suggested. ‘Are you sure?’ he gasped.I’d never been more sure of anything.

Now, we live together and we’re madly in love.

Armando, 28, understands everything about me – especially since we both have vitiligo!

He had a different upbringing where his vitiligo wasn’t talked about openly, meaning he’s more reserved about it than me, but he’s not ashamed.

People do sometimes stare but maybe it’s just because we look cute!

I’m just as active on social media to show it’s beautiful and not something to hide, and Armando and I still go to events together.

Meeting him was one of the best things to happen to me – and to think it was all down to posting about my skin!

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life, on sale now.

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