June 25: World Vitiligo Day

It’s V-Day, and I don’t mean Valentine’s. June 25 is set aside to create awareness about vitiligo and the social stigma associated with it around the world. As part of a campaign, we are petitioning to have June 25 officially recognized by the United Nations as part of a healthcare and education initiative for those with vitiligo and the community, and be observed as World Vitiligo Day.

Today is the perfect day to revive a post, particularly I Am Not My Skin Color, where I wrote about my own skin discoloration. Please read, share and sign the petition for recognition and support of vitiligo awareness.

Vitiligo Awareness - Model Me Girl - World Vitiligo Day - June 25

 

 

The Trouble with Suicide

Rebecca Ann Sedwick // Media File // Orlando Sentinel

Rebecca Ann Sedwick // Media File // Orlando Sentinel

Today I read a news story about 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick. Young Rebecca was reportedly bullied online for months and ganged up on by 15 girls. This ordeal pushed Rebecca to commit suicide.

Before the suicide came depression. Before the depression came the shredding of Rebecca’s sense of identity, self-worth, and self-esteem. Before the shredding came the let-down: disapproval by her peers.

In “girl world” approval from peers means so much. This is an unfortunate reality. How can we fix this?

My heart goes out to Rebecca’s family. I pray for their healing. I also pray for the other young people involved and their families.

The Question Is…

Why are girls (middle and high school girls, especially) so cruel to one another? Our society rewards bad girl behavior until it leaps off our television screens and into our schools and communities.

In sociology, we discuss the Thomas theorem: “Situations that are defined as real are real in their consequences.” We can discuss this in so many ways. But let’s look at what many of us miss.

Don’t simply be a mentor. Be a light.

Situations that seem trivial to you as an adult can be real crises to young girls. However they are defined to that particular girl, that’s what it is, even if we don’t see it the same way. She has built up faith in her perspective, no matter how skewed, and her resulting feels are real and valid. And these crises carry consequences that are just as real, with damaging and life-changing effects.

Many of us adults lack the mental fortitude and social support to challenge situations and redefine them as something that cannot prosper against us. Yet we expect young people who don’t have the age or experience we have to magically “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” when we cannot and will not do the same.

There is an educational gap, and I believe it is something the schools cannot fix. Are the people of God awake? Our children are dying and their wills, hearts and minds are being broken. Don’t simply be a mentor. Be a light.

The Trouble with Suicide

Do not be deceived. Suicide is not just a personal choice that affects one person. It’s not solely about what’s going on in someone’s mind. Social factors, including the environment and the positive/negative influence of other people play a huge part.

There is a spirit of suicide enveloping our young people.

Suicide is a societal and spiritual problem. There is a spirit of suicide enveloping our young people. There are so many lies and distortions that have been fed to the person who thinks about, attempts, or commits suicide. Remember, s/he has defined these situations—even the lies—as being real and attached value to them. How do we help someone to tear those down when many times we are oblivious to the fact s/he feels that way…until it’s too late?

If I can borrow from the public health arena, prevention in the form of awareness is good. The message gets out there. We call it suicide prevention. Now for the application. How do we encourage girls (and boys) to speak up when bullied? Even online?

There is a level of shame involved. Just like in many other instances of abuse, the abuser has a way of making the one being abused feel as though s/he is being petty about the acts, are “crazy” or will not be believed. Also, it takes guts to admit to someone you hate yourself, you’re unhappy, or that you have thought about or attempted to harm yourself. On a spiritual note, we understand the enemy loves to kill us softly with silence, especially when there is hurt and abuse involved.

Reach Just One

I may not can heal the world, save the planet, or be a super hero, but perhaps with the love of Christ, I can reach just one girl.

Sometimes we realize a little too late that bullies typically have low self-esteem, and are driven to make others feel as bad as they do, even to the point of death. Hurting people hurt people.

World Vitiligo Awareness Day: I Am Not My Skin Color

How important is skin color to you? Or should I say, how important is the absence of skin color to you?

logo_vitiligo1Supporters are petitioning the UN that June 25 be recognized as World Vitiligo Day. We are building awareness about vitiligo and the psychological and social consequences that can erupt as barriers in a person’s life, as well as to raise funds for education and research.

The stigma of vitiligo is real. It often takes the form of a master status, or primary characteristic that shapes a person’s social identity. This influences a person’s perception of him/herself. In many parts of the world, people who have skin depigmentation are discriminated against or socially isolated. There are uninformed individuals who see vitiligo or skin depigmentation and confuse it with leprosy, or as something contagious.

Simply put, vitiligo is a skin condition that occurs when the melanocytes stop producing melanin, which are responsible for giving color to the skin. The result is loss of skin color, or depigmentation. This can happen due to a variety of reasons, from autoimmune deficiencies, to skin trauma from a sunburn or reaction to chemicals.

The Stigma Is Real

While I have not experienced the extensive stigmatization as those in India with vitiligo and other parts of the world do, I understand that any pronounced skin depigmentation, such as vitiligo, marks you as different. To many, the idea of something or someone being different evokes fear or confusion.

The skin depigmentation I have is on my lower legs, feet and right arm. The contrast between the white patches and “normal” colored skin on people who are brown or dark is more prominent than on people who are light or white. I know the glances, the stares. But it was seeing another woman with brown skin—an educator, like myself—who proudly wore the depigmentation of her skin as a badge of honor. I didn’t see her shrink or appear overly self-conscious. I was inspired, and because of her witness, I no longer felt threatened by the stares…by the glances. I know it was God who used this woman in my life.

Understanding how someone developed vitiligo or any skin depigmentation is important. It’s the first step. But knowing how to live with it is a daily effort, and is the most important part. With close friends and family, it’s easy to live with. But when you face the world and looks of strangers, it’s not so easy.

The medical field positions that while vitiligo poses no significant threat to the body, other than limiting the skin’s protection from the sun, the huge impact skin depigmentation has on a person is with the mind and emotions. I do not believe the medical field is discounting physical medical needs; but the psychosocial needs far outweigh those.

 My Source of Strength

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul said,

“For this thing I sought the Lord thrice [three times], that it might depart from me. (9) And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.”

How you see things, or your perception, is key. I prayed and asked God to help me better understand His grace. Goodness, did He answer me!

How I See Me

God used my skin and the depigmentation to teach me that He and His grace are enough. My skin didn’t need to change. I needed to change my mind—how I saw things. How I saw myself. I have no control over the minds of others and how they see my skin. But with Christ, I could change my perception and overcome the barriers placed before me. Even the ones I erected.

World_Vitiligo_Day-Im-Not-My-Skin-Color-ModelMeGirlI began to see my skin depigmentation as powerful—not something to make me pitiful. It gave me a testimony and the ability to identify with others. It moved self out of the way so that the power of Christ could rest upon me.

If people see that I can still give God the glory, it’s worth it. If one person’s glance or stare stirs up a conversation, or if I remain silent and be read as a living epistle, the light of Jesus will shine through me and I stand as His witness. It’s all worth it. If someone is inspired to not be ashamed of how they look or who they are—it’s all worth it. If this depigmentation keeps me humble—it is more than worth it.

What am I saying? It’s worth the cost…the price.

Learning To…

Having the depigmentation compelled me to love the skin I am in more than ever. As such, I began to love others more, and care about the everyday experiences that shape a person’s identity—including being stigmatized and ostracized. I began to care about how to undo the effects of the hurt and build healthy perceptions.

I am learning to model. To model how to yield, and show God is able to change a person and the relationships they have—from the inside out. Even how you relate to yourself and society.

When I hear and read about the dark skin/light skin debates within the black community, my heart breaks. I think about women in India who are forced to flee their homes and abandon their marriages because in-laws found out the wives have vitiligo. The meaning of skin color takes on a new definition, and you see another layer of ignorance and need for education and reconciliation. This make me care even more about how we can protect our minds and hearts, and learn to not identify ourselves based on circumstances—past or present.

But how do I say this to the girl who feels like her life is not worth living all because of the condition and color of her skin? Wait. Not because of the condition and color of her skin, but because of how people react to it, and how she sees herself through their eyes?

It Is Well

If my skin color becomes uniformed again, God is great. If it doesn’t, God is still great. I am not my skin color. My skin is just the shell, the covering, that God decided to drape over me. My skin color is symbolic of God’s creativity. It is what it is, and I operate in the realm of reality.

As it is with shells, it is what is beneath that is the most important element. God is more concerned with my heart, my mind…my soul. So He is with yours.

Support

After being inspired by a woman with vitiligo, I asked myself how I could pass on that inspiration. The answer? By using one of the most powerful tools in my possession—my voice. I could also wear purple on June 25—the vitiligo awareness color—in support of increasing health awareness and education in the global community, and in support of those who live with skin depigmentation. I could also sign a petition in support of a World Vitiligo Day.

Will you join me? We are petitioning the UN for worldwide recognition of World Vitiligo Day. Be inspired and support those who, like me, are proclaiming: I am not my skin color.

VR Foundation

http://vrfoundation.org

Sign the petition.

 

 

Naturally Professional & Changing Cultural Symbols

I spent this evening as a panelist with a very knowledgeable and fine group. Tonight’s event was hosted by the University of Memphis’ National Association of Black Journalists. We discussed being “naturally professional” — the stereotypes of natural hair in the corporate world.

Are there stereotypes associated with natural hair in the professional work environment? Yes. Some people view natural hair as untidy, or that it reflects rebellion and personality/attitude issues.

 

There was much to discuss and learn. From a sociological and cultural perspective, hair is symbolic. It carries a meaning, whether you like the meaning or not. Can we redefine symbols and change their meanings? Certainly. However, most people are resistant to change, especially when it comes to changing their minds, which rests on their values, beliefs, and ideas.

Beauty Culture

Realistically speaking, it is 2013 and we must confront the issue of what messages our chosen hairstyles and natural textures send to society. Most importantly, we must confront what those messages mean to us on an individual basis. Change happens one person at a time. Only you can choose to change your own mind, and how you see yourself and society. This includes ideas about beauty.

Isn’t that the real issue with conversations about hair ? Ideas about beauty? These are values or standards imposed upon us that we choose to internalize or not. Our society has sold to us its standard of beauty. As a culture, we bought it. That price tag was pretty hefty.

The perspective that I shared tonight was that whether you are natural, have relaxed hair, wear a wig, weave, or whatever; at the end of the day you must love you. If you can only love yourself based on the texture or style of your hair, we need to fix something. When you peel back all the layers, all the superficial stuff, do you love who you are? Do you accept yourself?

I honestly hate “natural” hair being solely applied to people of color, as though other races don’t have natural hair. I also hate the term “ethnic” hair, hair care, and hair styles being applied to people of color. We are not the only ones who have an ethnicity. Everyone has an ethnicity. A shared culture or nationality equals ethnicity.

The Movement

In keeping with the theme, there are many reasons why a person joins the “natural hair movement”. Whatever the reason, I sincerely hope it is a personal choice to open your perspective and just be who you are, and not a cover-up for the symptom of self-esteem issues, whose root has not been dealt with. Yes, someone with natural hair, just like someone with relaxed hair, can STILL have self-esteem issues that are not connected to hair, but to something much deeper.

However, if your personal choice to wear your hair natural boosts your confidence and feelings of self-worth — good for you! Still, be sure that you are you, not matter what you have or what you look like. True beauty radiates from a pure heart.

“Just Say No” to Self-Righteousness

I caution natural ladies to not think of themselves in a self-righteous manner, as though embracing natural hair means you love yourself and God more than a woman who chooses to wear relaxed tresses. Having natural hair does not mean you will avoid damage, split ends, and the like.

I equally caution ladies with relaxed hair to not think of themselves in a self-righteous manner, as though having relaxed hair makes them more polished and sophisticated. Straight hair is not more beautiful than other textures.

The Big Question(s)

Are we truly “not” our hair? We say that: I am not my hair. But do we mean it? Is this conversation just an extension of racism and colorism within our own culture and society in general?

The question of the evening was: Is natural hair professional? Yes. Just like any type and texture of hair, no matter what color you are, your hair is expected to be groomed, especially in the corporate world. If it’s groomed, it’s professional: kinky, curly, wavy, straight, and everything in between. The issue is that mainstream society has not caught on to this realization that your hair texture is not a reflection of your skills, efficiency, intellect and productivity. Through promotion, education and creativity, we can plant this thought: All hair textures —regardless of race and ethnicity— are beautiful.

j-modelmg

 

 

 

Body Image & Eating Disorders: Too Fat, Too Skinny

Model Me Girl

It is sad to see young girls obsessing over their weight, whether they think they are too fat or too skinny. When I was a young girl, I had a serious issue with people calling me all kinds of names for being thin. As a result, I went in the opposite direction and became obsessed with gaining weight (which was a fail). At a young age, I made myself very sick force-feeding myself. My mother caught me, and she snapped me right back into reality. It was the fear I saw in her eyes that made me promise to never repeat what I had done. She told me I could kill myself doing what I did. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to gain weight. Remembering her fear-stricken face, I never ate like that again trying to pack on the pounds.

The Power of Words

Many people don’t understand the power of their words. We can kill or give life with what we say. For the longest, it was so hard for me to accept my thinness, among other things. By the grace of God, I’m okay with it today—thinness and all. This is how God made me. When He made me, He saw that His design was beyond good. God’s design of me was, and is, very good. The same goes for you.

Boy, do I wish I could go back in time and take back all the self-esteem and opportunities I lost because I was wrapped up in what other people thought about how I looked.

The devil is a time snatcher. He will have you focusing on all the wrong things for far too long. Wasted time, and for what?

Love Yourself

It’s a dream of mine to tell and convince every girl I can—whether she’s still a girl or now a woman—to love herself, and not waste time wishing she looked like this or like that. To accept her beauty and identity in Jesus Christ. Who dictates these beauty standards, anyhow? Too fat, too skinny. Hair too curly, too straight. Skin too black, skin too pale.

As for me, the ones who were the most damaging to my perceptions of self and body image were not other children. Yes, they teased and inflicted their degree of harm. But it was the adults—mainly “church” folk—who would cut me down after service, asking me if I needed a “get fat diet,” and who joked if my sisters were eating all the food up from me. I was in elementary school and junior high. How big did they expect me to be?

I found myself rushing to get out to the car after service, hoping to avoid “fellowshipping,” which typically resulted in my feelings getting hurt. The “get fat diet” seed came from a woman at church. She planted it, and I didn’t even know it. Once, my mother was right there, and snatched me away, telling the woman, “She doesn’t need any kind of diet. She’s fine like she is.” Thanks, Mommy.

Deliverance

My mother always told me there was nothing wrong with me being thin. That I would gain some weight over the course of my adult years. But I didn’t hear her because so many other people were telling me something different. She went above and beyond trying to build up what the enemy, through people, had torn down in her baby.

And then one day…Jesus happened. Thank God for deliverance! God will teach you how to accept and love yourself again. Even after man turns you against yourself and causes you to despise how God created you.

Jessica, the young girl in this video, said something I hope registers with everyone: “Be happy in your own skin, because everyone is different and everyone’s beautiful in their own way.”

 

 

 

 

© 2012 ModelMeGirl.com

Infographic: Teen ‘Back to School’ Cosmetic Surgery Trend

Model Me Girl

Some teens are doing whatever it takes to get approval from their peers and friends about their looks. Their parents are helping with this ‘pursuit of perfection’ with the price of cosmetic surgery. How far is to far—especially when bullying is part of the equation?

I understand the mind and feelings of teens with acne and acne scarring, because I was once there. As an adult, I ventured off to plastic surgeons, dermatologists and aestheticians—paying heavy prices to obtain perfect skin. Oh yeah, my skin still isn’t perfect! I can’t tell you all the products I’ve ordered over the years. What a waste. But I do know the weight and toll ‘imperfect’ skin plays on the hearts and minds of teens and adults—especially females. The wicked world of negative self-image!

Does all the cosmetic surgery (I’ve never had any done, btw…) actually heal hearts and minds, and solve self-image and bullying problems? Weigh in on it. Check out this infographic and tell us what you think.

© 2012 ModelMeGirl.com

cosmetic surgery the new back to school trend
Courtesy of: http://www.acnescars.com

The Doctrine of Sex in Teen Magazines, Part 1

Is this thing on? Welcome to the Model Me Girl Open Mic, where I’ll be dishing out random rants, commentary and topics that are on my heart and mind—hence, open mic.

Today’s open mic will be the first in a series titled: The Doctrine of Sex in Teen Magazines.

Doctrine: a teaching; rule or principle based on beliefs, ideas, theories or policies that is taught as truth.

A recent war has been waged by girls against ‘Teen Vogue’. Quite a few girls want to see realism—girls who look like them versus digitally altered “perfection”. ‘Teen Vogue’ is not the first magazine to come under fire by its targeted audience. I’m certain it won’t be the last, either. We know all those images of unattainable—or if only you can afford it—beauty are depressing and damaging to some girls’ self-esteem.

There’s something deeper that should be considered beyond the images portrayed in the typical teen magazine. I get clothes. I get beauty and style tips. Maybe it’s me, but I take issue with hypersexualized teen magazines. Under 18, they are still children, right? If I had a teen daughter, I wouldn’t want her reading much of the advice that comes across those pages or posts. Digital. Traditional. It doesn’t matter. Continue Reading

Runway Model Shunned for Weight Gain; Discovers No Price on Beauty

(ModelMeGirl.com)

Former runway model, Jennifer Strickland, was ousted by Armani for gaining four pounds, which led to her being shunned from the industry. It was a blessing in disguise. Jennifer’s ordeal brought her to Jesus and she discovered, “You can’t put a price on beauty; you can’t sell your face; you can’t sell beauty.”

Fashion Tips: How to Hide Your Tummy

(ModelMeGirl.com)

Understanding body shapes is important. Regardless of size or shape, we all have some type of figure flaw.

Tips to flatter or camouflage the tummy area include:

  • Ruffle detail around the mid-section
  • Banded tops
  • Tops and dresses with ruching

If you’re looking for ways to hide your tummy, check out this short video by Beverly Lane.

Enjoy!

© 2012 ModelMeGirl.com

Shaping a Healthy Body Image

Body Image LoveDo you have a healthy body image? When you look in the mirror, are you happy with the reflection? A healthy body image is one that is positive. Many girls have negative body images—they don’t like what they see.

Causes of a Negative Body Image

Did you know our family members and friends can pressure us to adopt an unhealthy body image? Teasing and weight gain can also negatively affect us. However, most of our pressure comes from the media.

Girls, young and old, are pressured to look like what TV, the Internet, magazines and billboards show us. But none of those “looks” are realistic. In America, we’re taught to look like Barbie®, be as tall and thin as super models and stay young forever. There’s so much wrong with these teachings. Continue Reading