Ashley Soto was just 12 years old when she was diagnosed with vitiligo, a condition that causes the skin to lose pigmentation in characteristic patches all over the body.
At the time, she was devastated: the condition quickly spread to more than 75 percent of her body, and Soto was frequently bullied because of her appearance (a girl on the beach once asked her if she had “showered with bleach”) . Determined to hide her skin, Soto vowed to wear pants and long sleeves every day.
Today, almost a decade later, Soto is a body-positive social media star (with over 81,000 followers on Instagram), known specifically for displaying her vitiligo through body art. Soto began to see the beauty in her unique skin only a few years ago when, on a whim, she traced her depigmented patches with black marker.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Soto explained: “I never realized how beautiful my vitiligo was until I traced it with a black marker, it really helps to bring out the different colors of my skin. I was always trying to find a way to show off. ” on my skin with a positive light, [y] I couldn’t do that before starting this. Now, what others would perceive as an imperfection, I have turned into something more beautiful and I have made it more accepted than before.
Soto soon realized that he could use his experience to teach others about vitiligo. So, he started using his skin as a canvas to recreate famous works of art (like Van Gogh’s Starry Night) and sharing the photos on social media to show others that being different is nothing to be ashamed of, that, in fact, it is beautiful.
Others with vitiligo see Soto as inspiration, and Soto says sharing the photos has also helped boost his own confidence. She adds: “Thanks to doing this, I have learned to accept myself more than before.”