“Zebra” and “giraffe” are just some of the nicknames that childhood bullies assigned to Curtis McDaniel, who has vitiligo, a skin condition in which certain cells stop producing pigment (Michael Jackson also suffered from vitiligo). Now, 11 years after his skin began to change, 22-year-old McDaniel is working as a model and no longer seeing his condition as a “curse,” The Sun reports.
Vitiligo, which affects 1% of the world’s population, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body destroys the skin’s ability to produce melanin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Melanin, the chemical that produces skin pigment, and thus skin color, is generally lost in patches.
“I was the only person in my family to have vitiligo and took it pretty hard at school,” McDaniel said in a statement to The Sun. “I was bullied a lot by people for my skin.”
McDaniel said that he was called a multitude of nicknames and that other children would react to his skin with judgement and fear.
“I was a spectacle everywhere I went, I once had kids running out of a store crying when they saw me and was called a ‘monster,'” he told The Sun.
Reactions such as these caused McDaniel to resent his skin. When he was 17-years-old, however, he was scouted to be a model after posting a selfie on social media. He now goes to school while working as a model part-time. He will soon be appearing on the MTV series “True Life” to tell his unique story, The Sun reports.
Now that he is in the public eye, McDaniel said he hopes to inspire other people with Vitiligo to embrace who they are.
“Before I used to think my skin was a curse, but now I realize my skin is a gift, it’s allowing me to influence people,” he said.
On average, it only takes one-tenth of a second for someone to look at someone’s face and form an impression, according to researchers at Princeton University.
Now that McDaniel embraces his skin condition with confidence, he has found that people’s perceptions of him are drastically changing as well.
“It’s pretty cool, people like the pattern of my skin and also the confidence I have too, I never could have imagined this would be my life now,” he said to The Sun. “Whenever I model or speak I don’t want people to see my skin but my heart, I want them to see my heart through my skin.”
Photo Courtesy of McDaniel’s Instagram