“Acceptance is the key to releasing your fears.”
Iomikoe Johnson, a wife, a model, and a mother of four has had vitiligo for the past 15 years. Growing up with ebony skin, she faced colorism and numbed herself to it. But once she developed vitiligo, she finally had to confront her issues of self-acceptance.
“In Louisiana, the south, where I’m from, the creole girls were really light-skinned, and that’s who boys liked. The creole girls and the kids bullied me because I was dark-skinned. They used to throw crickets on me, but my family loved me, and said “people are just hateful, and people are just evil for no damn reason.” My Daddy used to call me “pretty black.”
My parents would always shower me with love, and they taught me to be a good person. Now, I have a daughter too, and she’s dark-skinned like me. She’s my baby. Growing up, I constantly told her that she was beautiful. When she was in my womb, I used to tell her all the time that she was beautiful. I was going through vitiligo then, and I had other young children, and I had to be strong. I got vitiligo when I was 25 years old. I covered it for like 5 years because I didn’t want to be teased like when I was as a kid. I didn’t want people to think I was a monster or for kids to be scared of me. I just didn’t want to deal with it, but my husband used to say “You’re beautiful. You are walking art. You don’t have to hide from the world. For what? You are beautiful the way God created you.” From then on, I thought, “Acceptance is the key to moving on from your fear. Once I accepted it, I was able to move on and live my true life.”
One day, I was scrolling on Facebook, and I saw this model called Winnie Harlow, and I was like“she looks like me!” And I thought that maybe I could model. I met a photographer at a fashion show I did, and he asked me about a photoshoot. I did it, and I was completely nude, but my limbs were crossed so I wasn’t showing anything. We only did it that way to show complete self-acceptance. It was a metaphor for the arrival of my true self because I used to cover my vitiligo. I was only myself at home. I only wore makeup when I went out. I covered it up to make everybody else feel comfortable, but I wasn’t even comfortable in that makeup. It would take an hour and forty-five minutes to put on. Before I got vitiligo, I never wore makeup. I covered up to protect myself and my family. My brothers would be wanting to fight people. At Mardi Gras, somebody called me something really ugly, and my brother wantedTO KILL this man! So, that’s why I say that I didn’t want to be an emotional burden. I didn’t want my family to have to go through that.“
“Now I think differently.” Iomikoe expressed how after she let go of the fear she felt of others, she started modeling more, and things took off. “I did a fashion show. I did the today show in London, and I started getting a lot of business. I flew to the U.K to star in a show calledThe Circleon Netflix, and after the filming, I remember taking a bubble bath in that London apartment. It was just me, and I said to myself -WE DID IT, SIS!”
“Every time something big happens with me I'm like - wait, I am a little dark-skinned girl from Ville Platte, Louisiana. Nobody even knows where that is. This cannot be real! When things took off, I knew -this is my purpose. My daddy used to tell me that all of the time, “Everyone has a purpose. If having vitiligo had no purpose, you wouldn’t have had it.” I just want to help people. I want to teach other people that they don’t have to go down that road of hiding themselves. We’re supposed to be of service to