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"Speaking of Vitiligo..."

IN HER WORDS – Erika Page

Posted On: Thursday, May 21, 2020 Posted By: Erika Page Tags: Living with vitiligo, Vitiligo

This is the 3rd in a series of blog posts I’m calling IN HER WORDS, and today will focus on Erika Page. Erika has vitiligo, and she is passionate about bringing people together to create a strong community of support. She writes a blog called Living Dappled, and if you haven’t already, I encourage you to check it out here. As she describes it, Living Dappled is a vitiligo blog and lifestyle guide catering mostly to girls and women with the condition. Erika is a great writer, capturing the essence of her subject, connecting people with vitiligo all over the world, and fact-checking her content to make sure she gets it right! She shares beautiful photos of her subjects with vitiligo and gets their stories about living with it. I think Erika has been a wonderful addition to the vitiligo community and a great resource for those with vitiligo. I wanted to give you a chance to get to know her a bit here.

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Erika, when did you first notice that you had vitiligo? How did you feel? How has that changed?
So, funny story – I had always thought my vitiligo first appeared on my knees. Turns out that it started on my spine, but I didn’t know that as a kid because I couldn’t see my spine! My mom had to fix the record for me on that one a few years ago. I was diagnosed when I seven, but I don’t remember a lot about getting vitiligo. I know we used a topical cream for a while, but my vitiligo was spreading so quickly that the treatment couldn’t keep up and we decided not to pursue it any further. I struggled immensely in high school and college, although I kept the pain to myself for the most part. At some of my lowest points, I remember crying myself to sleep every night and thinking that I didn’t deserve friends because of the way I looked. By the time I graduated college, my vitiligo was covering most of my body and as it took over entirely, I started wearing tanner head to toe to give my skin some color. For five years straight, I didn’t leave the house without tanner. And then last March, I got tired of the routine and threw my tanner away. It was terrifying, exhilarating and the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I genuinely do love my skin now and have embraced my new complexion. The latest change is that vitiligo is taking over my eyebrows and hair, and I recently stopped dying my hair too. It’s been a year of embracing where I’m at, and I’m truly happy. 

What made you decide to write a lifestyle blog about living with vitiligo, and why did you focus on girls and women, in particular?
Around the time that I was losing most of my pigment, I started looking online for resources about vitiligo. What I found was that most vitiligo blogs were focused solely on treatment, and usually a single person’s journey with treatment. I felt that there was a huge part of the story missing – the part about living with vitiligo. I wanted to read about how to handle the moment you catch someone staring in the grocery store, how to apply tanner or how to simply feel like yourself on the tough days. Those resources didn’t seem to exist. So, I decided to create them. I wanted to build an uplifting haven that would let women feel inspired, supported and confident in how they approach life with vitiligo. It was also important to me that the voice wasn’t just mine. I don’t have all the answers, nor do I pretend to. That’s why our stories interview others living with vitiligo and include a lot of contributed content from other authors. To date, we’ve geared our content towards girls and women because they tend to be more active in their approach to voicing struggles, seeking support and looking for resources. We do have a lot of guy readers though too, and all are welcome!

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How did you decide on the name Living Dappled for your blog?
This is actually a great story. I met a girl who became a life-long friend my first year of college. Months after we met, she confessed that she had seen me on campus and decided she wanted to be friends with me because of my spots. My vitiligo reminded her of her favorite horse – an Appaloosa. I remember her using the word “dappled” to describe the horse’s coat. Fast forward several years and I was looking for a more everyday and fun way to talk about vitiligo and “dappled” came back to me. After searching the term online, I came across “dappled” horses and I thought, “Yep, that looks like my skin!” Hence, Living Dappled. 

What has been the most rewarding thing about starting, Living Dappled? How about the most difficult?
The most rewarding part has absolutely been the messages and stories of courage and gratitude that have come from readers. I’m truly floored and humbled by the way Living Dappled is impacting people’s lives and bringing them hope and community. I was twenty some years old when I had my first real conversation with another girl with vitiligo. I cried afterwards. There was so much power in simply knowing that I wasn’t alone. And Living Dappled is giving that same power to others. It’s exciting. And it keeps me motivated. The most difficult? Probably just finding the time! People are often surprised to learn that I have a full-time job outside of Living Dappled. Managing a blog and business like this takes time and dedication and I’ve been so thankful to have family, friends and a husband especially who supports me and this work. I have to give my husband in particular a shout out – he often makes me dinners during the week so I can find time to blog. He’s the true hero of this story.

You’ve turned the blog into much more, your own small business! How does this work?
Erika Page - Living DappledYes, I have! It’s exciting. I turned Living Dappled into an LLC in the spring of 2018 and collaborated on my first sponsorship just a few months later. Since then, I’ve been so thankful to work with companies like Clarify Medical, Zanderm, Daavlin and Vitiligo Vanquish. These companies have great products and solutions for those with vitiligo – and I have the chance to introduce them to my readers as sponsors. We also launched our first tee collection this past summer. The collection has more than 22 empowering tees with phrases like “team vitiligo,” “born to stand out,” and “dappled and darling.” All the content on Living Dappled is free to readers – but it’s not free in reality. It costs money to build, host and maintain a website in addition to the tools needed to create the content we share. The first two years that Living Dappled was live, I paid for it out of pocket – and still support it out of pocket some today. Our sponsorships and sales are so critical to making this work possible. I couldn’t be more thankful to get to work with these companies and am excited to bring more content to readers in 2020 in partnership with Daavlin and Vitiligo Vanquish.

Tell me about your feature in Bella Grace Magazine!
Absolutely! My mother in law gave me a copy of Bella Grace Magazine earlier this year and I was obsessed with it. The publication is a magazine and journal in one, and its stories are incredibly real, uplifting and positive. It’s a refreshing approach to the magazine world. I noticed they took submissions, so I shared a story I had written for Living Dappled back in 2018 about an interaction with a stranger in a grocery store. The woman said four words about my skin that changed my life, and I write about why it mattered as someone living with vitiligo. I won’t share the whole story here, but that blog post will be in the print issue that comes out late spring. I’m incredibly excited.

What do you think about the portrayals we’ve seen in women with vitiligo in the public space – Winnie Harlow, Domino from Deadpool 2, new sales campaigns for skin products featuring models with vitiligo?
Words can’t even express my joy. It’s beyond exciting to see women with vitiligo being featured in the media and by big, culture-defining brands. I think the biggest win for the vitiligo community recently was Barbie launching its new doll with vitiligo. I can only imagine what having a Barbie with vitiligo would have done for my confidence when I was a little girl. And I love thinking about the world that today’s children with vitiligo will grow up in – surrounded by images of people just like them and by brands who tell them that they are beautiful. It’s literally lifechanging.

Who should we be watching in the vitiligo community?
Oh gosh, where do I begin?! I have to say that I’ve loved watching Ava Bright’s modeling career take off. She’s such a great role model and influence for other kids and teens with vitiligo and I’m excited to see where she is in a few years. I’m also a huge fan of Bianca Schönhofer, who you might know from the Venus commercials. You can just feel her confidence and beauty radiating and I hope to see her career continue to grow too. I’m also really excited about the work that Sharon King is doing for those with vitiligo through Litty Ligo. She has boundless energy and is always creating new resources and forums to connect people. She’s also astoundingly quick on social media – if you want vitiligo news, she’s the first to know – and share it!

Ten years from now, what changes would you like to see within the vitiligo community? What would you like Living Dappled to look like? Accomplish?
Erika Page - Living DappledGreat questions. It’s such an exciting time for the vitiligo community - I truly feel like we are on the cusp of the next best decade for vitiligo. In ten years, I hope we have better treatments and possibly a cure, I hope treatments are fully funded by insurance, I hope vitiligo models are the norm, and I hope kids with vitiligo don’t know that they are different. Lately, what’s really been on my heart is this divide between those who want to embrace their vitiligo and those who want to treat or hide it. In ten years, I hope we’re at a place where we have acceptance for everyone regardless of how they handle their skin. We’ve come too far as a community to turn on those struggling the most and judge their actions. I work hard to make sure that everyone is welcome at Living Dappled, whether they are loving their spots, covering their spots, treating their spots or celebrating their spots. And speaking of Living Dappled – gosh, I have so many dreams for this platform. First and foremost, I’d love to scale our content and grow our team to keep the stories flowing. I love connecting readers with inspiring people and resources and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Second, I’m always trying to determine how to bring additional value to the lives of our readers in a way that steps beyond content. I’m still exploring the best way to make that happen but check back in ten years and I hope to have that answer!

Any other thoughts?
Yes – I’m truly thankful for the work you’re doing for the vitiligo community. You were the first dermatologist and vitiligo expert I reached out to after starting Living Dappled. I still remember hanging up after our first phone call and feeling like you made my day. Since then, you’ve been a huge resource and support to me. I owe my medical fact-checking on Living Dappled to you! You have such a gift for making the science behind vitiligo and its treatment easily understandable for those with vitiligo. I’m forever grateful for your time and dedication to this community!