Denise had been faithfully “wearing a mask” for over 30 years, hiding from what made her most insecure since her childhood. She has always noticed the looks and glances people give her when they see the heart-shaped vitiligo patch on her face. When she was asked to do one thing, it metamorphosed her out of her cocoon.
— Inside Edition (@InsideEdition) March 29, 2018
Denise Chamberlain from Anderson, Indiana, has been suffering from vitiligo and using makeup to cover it up for more than 30 years. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells for the skin, hair, and eye color, stop producing melanin, which in turn causes the skin to lose color.
At the age of 10, the first sign of vitiligo appeared as a white spot on her finger and quickly spread to other areas of her body. As a child, Denise went to a community pool where a boy asked her, “What is wrong with your feet?” Denise told SWNS, “I just dived off, it made me cry.”
That was when she was 11 years old. She has avoided swimming in public ever since.
“The doctor marinated my skin with liquids strong enough to take off nail polish. I begged for answers. They didn’t know how to cure it. They still don’t.”#LoveWhatMatters
Over the years, vitiligo has spread to her scalp, gums, arms, hands, feet, legs, and face. Her family tried to seek treatments for her without success; the only result they were seeing was money and effort going down the drain. Currently, treatment for vitiligo doesn’t prevent continued loss of skin color or a recurrence.
Denise recalled being the only girl in 6th grade to wear makeup, having to cover up her secret from her classmates. From the age of 10 to 40, Denise used foundation and concealer on her face and hands, spending approximately a total $144,000 on makeup.
“I wore it every single day and I learned how to perfect it so people who looked at me wouldn’t even know I had it on,” Chamberlain said to Inside Edition. “I didn’t want people to ask me questions and I didn’t want the stares.”
View this post on Instagram
From her family not being able to understand her condition to suffering in an abusive relationship with her husband, Denise was hurting from anxiety and depression and became suicidal. She found herself being dragged into a dark abyss where people saw her as a “monster.” She hated how she looked.
“It made me into a person who didn’t want to be noticed,” Denise said. “That mask was everything for me. Vitiligo clenched me for so long and didn’t let me prosper.”
She would have gladly tossed out her makeup if only there were another way to hide her secret.
A few years ago, Denise made a Walmart-run without any makeup on, trying to be comfortable with her skin. Unfortunately, the trip ended with a panic attack because she felt “exposed” and that “everyone was staring.”
View this post on Instagram
Fortunately, a call from a couple of years ago changed her life.
While attending a vitiligo support group, Denise was asked to speak with a young girl struggling from the condition via FaceTime. At that moment, she had an epiphany. She rushed to the restroom and washed all of her makeup off before going back to make the call.
“I went and washed my makeup off. I was already at the door knocking because I wanted to come out, but that girl pushed me out of the door,” said Denise. “For that little girl, I had to take it off for her.” Knowing very well what it’s like suffering from vitiligo as a child, Denise wanted to encourage the girl with her best effort, showing her it’s okay to be comfortable in her skin.
Denise has been makeup-free and happier ever since. She’s swimming again and is devoting her time to advocating for vitiligo, getting involved with a charity combating bullying and preventing suicide, and even rocking a model career down the runway.
Being completely comfortable in her skin now, Denise even turned down a research opportunity to cure vitiligo. “I am no longer hiding in the shadows. I am enjoying life from the front row,” she wrote in her submission to Love What Matters.
“I feel like God has given me a second chance at life,” she added.
It may be difficult to become comfortable with something you can’t change, but there’s always hope in making changes on the inside, which shall never fail to shine through.