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    Lifestyle

    “Body Blur by Vita Liberata has become my miracle product”

    A few months back, I was lucky enough to take part in another campaign – this time with Vita Liberata, a premium organic skincare and sunless tanning brand popular with the likes of Rosie Huntingdon Whitely and Rita Ora.

    The idea behind the campaign was to demonstrate how Body Blur, an instant body makeup that gives a flawless skin finish when applied, can benefit those with vitiligo or any other visible skin condition. The conversation between myself and the brand started after a very satisfied customer got in contact to say that the Body Blur, one of their premium products, had saved their life. The customer, who had used self tanners in the past, had spent years trying to find a product that disguised the patches on her skin, but nothing she used seemed to create the coverage she wanted. She then discovered Body Blur and was so overwhelmed with the results, that she contacted Vita directly to say just how much the product had helped her. In response, Vita contacted the Vitiligo Society, where I am a Director and so a conversation around how we could collaborate and widely share the benefits of Body Blur, began.

    I’ve always been very open about the fact I use self tanners, especially during the summer because as someone who is mixed race with vitiligo, it meant that my white patches were a stark contrast against my caramel coloured skin. This meant that I tried everything in m power to disguise them – camouflage makeup in the first instance and then later self tanners. I worked my way through an entire shelf of products; creams, mousses, gradual tanners and sprays and always went for the darkest shade possible. My obsession meant that I’d apply layers upon layer until my skin was barely noticeable and practically orange! It was the only way I’d feel remotely comfortable showing my skin to the public.

    I’ve always felt like people often have strong views on self-tanners and camouflage makeup and have seen comments online such as ‘you shouldn’t feel as though you should disguise your skin’ and ‘not using coverage means you are totally accepting of your skin’. For me, wearing self tanner isn’t a measure of a person’s confidence and no one should be made to feel as if wearing fake tan is deflecting away from their natural beauty. It’s simply a personal choice. This is why taking part in the campaign felt so appropriate to my own personal journey and fully supported my strong views on covering vitiligo as being a person’s choice.

    Back to the campaign! The campaign brief was that a group of girls would come together as friends, sharing their story and testing the products in front of the camera. My biggest hurdle was finding a group of women who had used fake tan in the past and wanted to take part. I instantly started sending messages to girls I had spoken to on social media and admittedly some women were reluctant as they either didn’t cover their skin, had stopped using fake tan and felt as though it went against their opinions on using products that covered their skin. However, there were a group of girls that were keen, loved the idea of testing the products and being part of a campaign and were experienced users of self-tanners.

    Prior to the shoot day it was important that I tested the product to make sure it was something I would genuinely use. When the sealed box arrived in the post I was incredibly excited about trying it! Ten minutes later, my skin looking fresh, I started applying the Body Blur to my legs with a tanning mitt and was blown away with the results. It was as easy as applying moisturiser, took seconds to dry, smelt great and most importantly didn’t mark my clothes. The product was a winner!

    The actual shoot itself was so much fun! I got to record the campaign with three lovely ladies who also shared similar stories to mine. We spent quite a bit of time getting to know each other in between recording and really connected because we had vitiligo. Vita Liberata founder, Alyson Hogg carried out the recorded interviews and took a real interest in what it was like for each of us living day to day with the condition. Each of the models spoke about how and when it first developed, that pinnacle moment when we realised we were different, using camouflage products in the past and how we found using Body Blur.

    This is one of my first major campaigns and as someone who has spent many years trying and testing coverage products and self tanners, taking part in this one felt right. My view has always been that I will only take part in a campaign if I genuinely believe in the product and would use as part of my daily routine. If its something I would benefit from, then potentially, others with Vitiligo also will. Body Blur has changed my perspective on coverage products because of how easy it is to apply and how natural it looks on the skin and its definitely made it on the list as a suitcase must have….

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    Lifestyle

    Dove Launches #Showus Campaign

    ‘72% of women in the UK still don’t feel represented in media & advertising’. A shocking statistic shared by global brand Dove, as they launch their new global campaign, #Showus.

    It’s a statistic that shocks me and feels as though it’s something that I’d expect to hear in the 80’s as opposed to now when diversity and the importance of a wider representation is being championed across all forms of media.

    The new campaign, which aims to speak out against outdated beauty ideals and stereotypes, is a collaboration formed with creative agency Girl Gaze (@girlgaze) and Getty images, one of the biggest suppliers of stock imagery with an archive of over 200 million. Together, as a strong collaboration, they want to create the world’s largest photo library with 5000 photos of binary and non binary women across 39 countries, in order to challenge and shatter unrealistic beauty stereotypes.

    For me, Dove have always been a brand I consider authentic and genuine, especially ever since the launch of their #realbeauty campaign back in 2004 which featured beautiful women of all shapes, sizes and races. I’ve watched closely as prominent campaigns followed including the Dove Self Esteem Project (which focuses on building self-esteem in young people), My Beauty My Say and The Woman Warrior Project, which collectively, support women representing their own type of beauty.

    With their newest collaborative campaign making a difference as it gains mulitple exposure across different platforms, its empowering to see so many women with varied conditions being appreciated for what makes them proudly unique. So far, we have seen women with scars, curves, albinism and Vitiligo, showing the world why they too, are just as ‘real’ as those women most commonly used in advertising. Beatriz from Brazil was the first face I spotted because of her Vitiligo. Posing with her hands held confidently above her head which revealed the patches on her arms, she commented that “seeing real people in the media is empowering’ and her hope is that more women with skin conditions will continue to be represented in the media.

    As new images continue to make it into the global album there is exciting anticipation on who we will see next. Follow and support Dove on Instagram and be inspired by all those women proud to be making a difference….

    Want to be part of a great initiative that expands the beauty of definition? Share an image of yourself alongside #ShowUs hashtag and you could be selected and featured. For more information, check out the Dove website for more info.

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    Lifestyle

    How Women With Vitiligo are Breaking Barriers and Becoming the Face of Global Campaigns

    Vitiligo

    In 2018, the Vitiligo community had some serious major wins to be proud of. From features in magazines, to representing global fashion brands to being the face of beauty campaigns (which ironically many of us thought we weren’t), the past few years has created unimaginable opportunities that has allowed us to show off and celebrate our skin.

    Its great to see brands are finally starting to ‘think outside the box’ and are looking beyond the women and models that resemble the Kylie Jenner’s and Gigi Hadid’s of the world, its definitely a time for us to be proud and so here are 4 stories I want to celebrate from 2018…

    Amy Deanna; the face of Covergirl

    Amy Deanna’s face quickly swept across the internet when she became the first model with Vitiligo to represent makeup brand, Covergirl. The campaign, I Am What I Am, carried the powerful message about being ‘unapologetically’ you.

    In the 15 second ad campaign, Amy asks ‘Why try to blend in when you can choose how to stand out?’, whilst applying Tru Blend foundation to the patches on her face. It’s a phrase that resonates so much with women with Vitiligo, because for so long we didn’t want to stand out. We wanted to blend in. Hide in fact and for many of us, we would scour the market for the best products that disguised our skin as much as possible. Now, standing out is about being us, which is something so many of us are starting to do….

    https://www.allure.com/story/covergirl-amy-deanna-model-vitiligo

    Gillette: My Skin My Way

    When I first saw this campaign on Instagram, my immediate reaction was ‘wow’, brands really are changing the way they do things!

    Bianca Schonhofer, from Vienna flew out to Mexico to shoot the 26-second clip which opens with her eyes looking deep into the camera and features her throughout along with a heavily tattooed model. On the Gilette Venus Instagram page, the message is simple. Be proud. Be Unapologetic. Be you. We are definitely listening…..

    Watch the full clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTe0qoHcBo0

    Aerie launch #AerieREAL

    Back in summer 2018, lingerie brand Aerie, owned by American Eagle, launched the #AerieREAL which included 57 women (chosen from 2000 applications), with various medical conditions including a Paralympian and a cancer survivor. Incredible.

    Representing for Vitiligo was Lexus Morgan, a great advocate for Vitiligo, who, just after the campaign launched commented, “I’m so incredibly grateful to have had this magical opportunity and experience. I’m so humbled to be featured in such an inspiring campaign alongside all of the gorgeous and authentically #aerieREAL women”

    https://www.ae.com/featured-aeriereal/aerie/s-cms/6890055?cm=sGB-cGBP

    Revolution launch campaign with zero retouching

    London based makeup brand Revolution launched their makeup campaign that included 24 models from diverse backgrounds including a 90 year old makeup enthusiast. Can you get anymore diverse than that?!

    What I especially loved about this campaign was its ‘zero retouching’ ethos, which meant the campaign represented natural, every day women who didn’t have to hide behind airbrushing tools.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-6127749/Is-diverse-beauty-campaign-ever.html

    Right now, us girls with Vitiligo should be on a friggin high! None of these campaigns happened over night. Brands took a gamble when they decided to step away from ‘norm’ and invest in ‘us’, which ten years ago would never have happened…and I’m sure for many who are sharing their story and featuring in the campaigns like those I’ve mentioned, it took a long time for them to reveal themselves in such a public way.

    It takes a lot to love your body and finally, not only do we love our body but others do too. Here’s to a good 2019…..

     

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    Lifestyle

    2018: Thank You…

    So, with just a few hours to go until we welcome in a brand new year, i’ve managed to squeeze in one last blog post before the year is out! I’ve had a particularly good year. Some great opportunities have come my way (swimwear campaigns, some great features in magazines and my continued work at the Vitiligo Society), so for me its been a great year for ‘growth’. For the past few weeks, like many people no doubt I’ve been feeling reflective….casting my mind over the past 12 months and think about those things I loved, what I’ve learnt and what I need to change to make sure the new year is better than the last.

    With that in mind, here’s what 2018 has taught me…

     Meditation

    In September, I enrolled on a Mindfulness and Meditation course along with my sister, and it was probably one of the best things I’ve done this year! Its always been an area of interest, but whenever I’ve thought about enrolling on a course, I’ve always come up with my excuses. Thankfully, when my sister mentioned she’d like to do a short course, I knew it was a sign that I should join her.

    I know so any people who have turned to meditation as a way of resuming focus and bringing some much needed calmness in their life and this course offered that. Every Monday, for 10 weeks, I found myself back in the classroom practising breathing exercises, learning how to be mindful during day to day life and the different types of meditation that will ground you and help you to resume peace in an often frantic life. I’ve taken away so many tips and practises from the course that will continue to bring me positive focus in 2019.

    I can public speak!

    Finally! I feel like I can give myself some credit as a public speaker! For so long, I’ve been pretty hard on myself, always convincing myself that I look like a bag of frantic nerves anytime I’m about to go on stage and speak. Whilst public speaking has always put the fear factor in me, it’s always been something I’ve wanted to develop, especially as I felt like the one quality that always seems to follow me is shyness.

    This year, I have attended school assemblies to speak about body confidence and equality, introduced the film ‘Wonder’ to a group of year 6’s at Hackney Picture house and hosted this years annual Vitiligo Society open day for the second year running. The feedback I get after speaking is always positive, with people commenting that I speak very naturally and a great pace. Really?

    Having presented on a number of occasions, I finally realise just how much we can overthink addressing an audience. What if I stutter? What if I speak to fast? What if my story is boring? All these thoughts overshadow the goodness we are about to do, when we do the brave thing and stand up and speak. Now, I’ve learnt to stay calm, take a few deep breaths and relax and focus on delivering not tripping up! From the second I walk into a school or somewhere I’m presenting, I walk in as a speaker….a confident speaker. Not Natalie who used to be too shy to raise her hand in primary school! You’ve heard the saying…..fake it before you make it! It works if you believe in yourself….

    Your skills aren’t limited to your day-to-day job

    I’ve always thought that your skillset are those ones you gain through your 9-5 job. This year I realised your best skills aren’t necessarily gained as a result of your profession.

    Outside of work I’m a writer, a Director at The Vitiligo Society and an ambassador for Vitiligo. Since becoming a trustee for The Vitiligo Society in 2017, not only have I learnt how to run a charity as I continue my role managing social media and community engagement, but it’s highlighted where my real qualities lie. Being part of the Vitiligo Society has highlighted my good engagement skills, my ability to manage projects and organising events such as our annual Vitiligo Society Open Day. Its roles such as this that allow me to be part of the Vitiligo community and connect that challenges me and highlights where my genuine and passionate skills lie….

    Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is incredibly exhilarating

    Growing up there we so many things I shied away from! I hated playing a part in school plays, only really liked being around groups of friends that I was familiar with and was pretty much attached to my Mum’s hip during big family gatherings. I know…I was super timid back then!

    As I’ve got older and realised that certain opportunities will only come your way if you speak up, I’ve encouraged myself to do those things my younger self would shudder at! I’ve shared my story in magazines where the associated photos have revealed my skin, have walked around on holiday in shorts with my patches on show and this year, my ‘comfort zone exit’ highlight was a photo-shoot with ANTM contestant and body confidence activist, Khrystyana. It was a photo-shoot that I contemplated right up to the point where all the other girls who were taking part, were already in the shot waiting! My issue wasn’t the photos as such; it was the fact we had to pose in our underwear. Nevertheless, I went through it and was incredibly proud of the photos and with myself personally that I had pushed myself to take part. It was definitely a stepping stone for me and reminded me that anything is indeed, possible…

    As I sign off with this being my last post of 2018, I wish you all a healthy, happy and positive 2019 x

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    Lifestyle

    The Photoshoot That Pushed Me Outside My Comfort Zone

    A few weeks back a group of girls stripped down to their underwear and took part in a photo-shoot that would challenge the fashion industry and show the beauty of different body shapes, sizes and skintones. I was one of those girls.

    Directed and crafted by body positive campaigner and ex America’s Next Top Model contestant, Khrystyana, it was a shoot that united a group of women with honest bodies that revealed different stories and life experiences.

    I’ll be honest in that, I felt a tad nervous as I drove down to the studio in East London. I was well aware of the planned direction of the shoot, however, given I hadn’t experienced such a revealing photoshoot in the past and I had no idea who the girls were that were taking part, naturally, I had my reservations.

    I was quickly put at ease when I arrived and noticed a few familiar faces that I had worked with in the past, but what I was instantly struck by within a matter of minutes, was how positive the energy was. There were women wandering around, with a real sense of appreciation and openness in relation to their bodies, irrespective of what they looked like. I knew pretty quickly it was a sign that what we were about to create was going to be something empowering. 

    The shoot itself lasted for around two hours. We had a selection of individual shots, before creating the main images which included intertwining arms and hands which showcased our skin tones and a tight knit shot that would see us laying in position with our bodies slightly overlapping and almost cocoon like, for a peaceful shot that made us appear as though we were sleeping…

    Since the photos were released on Instagram, they have made their way around with magazines, body positive influencers and campaigners sharing the work of Khrystyana and the creative photographer, Irene Cano.

    With any media related campaign I get involved with, I always try to take away something positive or just opens my eyes to another way of thinking. With this shoot, I realised that body confidence isn’t about our body shape, skin colour or the size of our hips, its about our mindset, our beliefs and our ability to appreciate who we are without getting wrapped up in what the fashion industry tries to convince us is ‘body perfect’.

    In recent years, I’ve loved embracing challenging moments – pushing myself to do things that I probably wouldn’t have 5 years ago. From sharing my story live on radio without the comfort of a retake, to speaking out in schools, to hosting conferences, for me, these are things that I value and that allow me to prove to myself that with support, encouragement and faith, you can do those things that fill you with fear, because afterall “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and taking part in this photoshoot, was testament to the fact, once again, I pushed myself outside mine….

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    Lifestyle

    BlogConLDN – My First Bloggers Networking Event!

    Earlier this month I experienced my first Bloggers event. Given I was going alone (one of my commitments to myself was to solo network more!), I didn’t go in lightly and decided to head for BlogConLdn, an annual event that connects bloggers, influencers and creatives for informal networking in a fun, yet insightful environment. This is the second event of its kind by Scarlett London, and having experienced this one, I kinda wish I could turn back time and experience the first event that took place in 2017!

    I’ll be honest. When I parked up at the CEME Conference Centre in Rainham, Essex and quickly noticed girls in pairs and others in groups excitedly predicting what the day might look like, part of me wanted to drive straight back out the carpark! I suddenly felt like this was an event that needed to be enjoyed with friends or other bloggers and so my initial idea of going solo, suddenly felt like a big mistake. Nevertheless, I soon shook of any feelings of nervousness and headed in, afterall, the idea was to network, meet people and most importantly move my blog forward with help from some of the workshops arranged for the day.

    The spacious conference space that was filtered with natural light allowed for comfortable mingling. I casually wandered around soon after I arrived, checking out the planned workshops agenda and deciding on which talks would aid me in my pursuit to build my blog. After treating myself to a glass of champagne, I made my way upstairs and decided to attend the ‘Improving your blog photography with Lightroom’ workshop with blogger, April Todd, followed by ‘Taking your Instagram To The Next Level’ with Jordan, from Hello Miss Jordan. Lasting for 45 minutes, both offered insightful tips on photography and how to get the most out of your blog photos.

    After both sessions, I headed back downstairs to visit some of the exhibitor stands,

    which included some of brand favourites – Macadamia Natural Oil, Jewellery Box, Johnny Loves Rosie and Scan Disk. I instantly fell in love with Jewellery Box , an online retailer who specialise in a wide range of versatile, 9ct gold and sterling silver pieces and found the ethos of recently launched TOTM very interesting. Created in 2016, TOTM is a brand passionate about raising awareness of periods and eradicating the idea that ‘the time of the month’ is a taboo subject for girls and women. Ethically friendly, I learnt about their range of period products that are 100% certified organic cotton, eco friendly and cruelty free.

    On the main stage, four bloggers and influential YouTuber’s shared with us ‘How To Find Your Blogs USP’, something I’m sure we’ve all given extensive thought after deciding we want to write a blog or create a YouTube channel.It was interesting to hear their views on how to increase your following, maintain consistancy, grow your market and how to find your all important USP. I definitely learned some good takeaways from the session.

    The last workshop I joined was ‘Collaborating with Brands: Blogging, Blagging and Blagging Your Dream Projects’ as presented by Kirsty Leanne from Clickstay. This was a great session as there was an opportunity for a bit of ‘on the spot writing’, which, although feels a little daunting, is a great way to get you writing in the spare of the moment. One thing I have always found tricky is how to pitch to a brand – how do I start an email? How best to sign off at the end? What does the brand wan to hear? and so the exercise whereby we had to write a pitch email was a great learning curve, as it finally allowed me to establish exactly what to include in a pitch email. Clickstay also gave me some great holiday type blog post ideas, which I can’t wait to start writing!

    BlogConLdn was definitely worth the solo visit (even just for the goodie bad alone!), although now that I’ve experienced it, I reckon next year I’ll be getting my blogger friends to tag along! Despite all that I learned and the informative workshops, I missed out on photo opportunities because there are only so many times you can ask others to take a quick photo! Nevertheless, I’m glad I didn’t turn back when I arrived because the valuable tips I’ve taken away, would be ones I may never have known….

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    Advice For Parents

    4 Ways To Help Your Child Understand Vitiligo

    At what age do you explain to your child that they have Vitiligo? Or do you wait for them to come home from school one day after one of the kids has perhaps asked questions about their skin?

    I don’t ever really remember my parents telling me what Vitiligo was. I vividly remember the endless train journeys to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London and the play area in the waiting room that kept all the kids quiet until their names were called over the tannoy, but I don’t actually remember when I realised what I was going for or ever asking why I was going! Mum says I questioned my skin when I was around 6 years old. I’d come home from school and apparently one of the kids in my class had asked me what it was, to which I replied ‘I don’t know’…. because I genuinely had no idea. It was then she told me I had a skin condition called Vitiligo and that there was nothing wrong with me. That was the end of it. It was never a hot topic or spoken about again unless someone had brought it to my Mum’s attention….

    As a parent, trying to get your head around Vitiligo or any condition for that matter, can be tough, especially when they are newly diagnosed. So with that in mind, how must it feel for a child to understand the reasons for their slightly unusual skin tone that makes them different from the other kids in the class? Here are the ways, from my own personal experience growing up, how you can help you child understand Vitiligo…

    Explain to them what it is in simple terms

    I know this must sound like I’m stating the obvious, but it can often be difficult trying to explain a condition to a child in simple terms if its not so simple. The key is, try not to over complicate things to quickly! Young children don’t need to understand the technicalities behind Vitiligo, so talking about it being an autoimmune disease and that the loss of pigment is due to the lack of melanin in the skin, isn’t necessary. A child friendly explanation could simply be ‘You have a condition called Vitiligo which means white patches appear on the skin’. All the other stuff can come later in life when they are old enough to understand. When my nephew, who is 8 has asked me what was wrong with my skin, I responded by saying ‘Auntie Nat has a skin condition. It just a little different to yours’, which he accepted and has never felt to ask me again since.

    Show them stories with characters that have indifferences, including Vitiligo

    Back when I was growing up, there were barely any black or mixed race characters in the children’s books I read, so there certainly wasn’t a Naomi or Natasha with Vitiligo! Looking back, I honestly believe this would have helped ‘normalise’ my skin and help me to see it in a positive light.

    Now with books such as Skin Deep: A Childs Story and Snow White and The Seven Patches in which the lead character has Vitiligo, we are able to teach our children through story telling and show them that there are characters in every day life that represent them.

    Remain positive

    I know as a parent you will want to remain positive, but I also understand it can be difficult as you wonder how they are getting on in school or even panicking because you’re not sure how much your child’s Vitiligo will spread. Out of all those people your child comes into contact with, you’re likely the one that will comfort them through difficult times and reassure them if they do face any challenges. My parents always dressed me in shorts and t-shirts during the summer because they refused to have me think that I had something to hide. They always remained positive and hopeful during hospital visits, and didn’t let me think that Vitiligo would stop me from doing the things I loved, such as swimming.

    Banish the Bullshit

    Regardless of your skin colour, religious beliefs, gender or size there is always going to be that kid in the class that spouts negativity! Try and prepare your children for the obvious questions that may arise such as ‘What is it called’? ‘Can you catch it’? (I wish I could banish this question!) and ‘Were you born with it’?. Not only will this allow them to understand their condition, but it will also allow you to dispel any myths that are often associated with Vitiligo, such as it being contagious and stress being a key factor of its cause.

    Since being a trustee at The Vitiligo Society, I often here from parents who have discovered patches on their child’s skin and are often unsure how to deal with their child’s changing skin. I cant stress enough how important it is for you to remain positive, even though their might be occasions when you want to shut the door and shed a tear because you’re not sure what it means in the long term. Try not to worry to much. In all the years I’ve had Vitiligo, I know that having a skin condition in the present time is probably the best time to be different because all around us unique conditions are being celebrated and body confidence has never been so powerful across social media in particular. Remain confident and hopeful for them because if they know you love and support them, chances are they’ll know everyone else will too…

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