Darcel:vitiligo set no limits for her success
I first heard about Darcel de Vlugt on Twitter. Someone tweeted that they were auditioning for a tv show about her. I want to share her story with you because I think you may find inspiration through this beautiful young woman who has not let her struggle with vitiligo define her, or limit her successes.
Her skin is so pale that she wears Factor 100 sun cream on even a dull summer day. Yet, incredibly, 23-year-old Darcel de Vlugt was born black. In a case of extreme rarity, the skin condition vitiligo has taken the pigment from her entire body. Experts say they have never come across such a striking change and she says: ‘I have a hard job convincing people that I was actually born with dark skin.’
Darcel’s parents Peter and Charmaine, both from Trinidad, noticed white spots on her forearm and forehead when she was five. Doctors diagnosed vitiligo.
‘My father worked for the United Nations and we traveled the world a lot with his job,’ said Darcel, now a fashion designer in London. My family believe the stress of moving at such a young age brought on the condition. None of my direct family have ever suffered with the condition, although several relatives by marriage have had it in a less serious form than me.’
‘When I was first diagnosed at the age of five, we didn’t take it too seriously. The doctor gave me medication to try and stop it spreading, and we thought that it wouldn’t get any worse.’
But by the age of seven, white patches had started to appear on Miss De Vlugt’s legs, and then by the time she was nine, it had spread up her arms too. A year later it had started to spread up her neck and up to her nose. She said: ‘We tried all the treatment we could to try and stop it spreading, but nothing seemed to work. The doctors told me to sunbathe for ten minutes each day which I did for a year, then I took medication for five years.
‘At the age of 12 I tried UV laser treatment, but it didn’t work and by then, 80 per cent of my body was white so I decided to leave it. There was nothing I could do.’
Because it has no melanin, Darcel’s skin is vulnerable to sunburn, and she has to constantly wear suncream with a sun protection factor of 100. She said: ‘I was very badly burnt at the age of nine, to the extent where my skin looked like it had been burnt in a fire. ‘I was covered in fluid filled blisters and it took weeks to heal. It was so painful.’
Miss De Vlugt was given the option of bleaching the remainder of her skin as her body started to change colour, but she decided against it. She said: ‘I believe that Michael Jackson had vitiligo and had patches of it on his body, then he bleached the rest so it had an even look. But I didn’t want to bleach it as it would mean it was irreversible, and I had hoped that all the treatments I had been having would work instead. But now my body is completely white all over, with not a patch of brown left, so I wouldn’t have needed to bleach any remaining skin anyway.’
Darcel de Vlugt is now a 24-year-old London College of Fashion graduate whose debut collection was shown at the first annual Islands of the World Fashion Week in November 2008, Nassau, the Bahamas. In August 2009, she won the NextGen Designer Award for her edgy but elegant cocktail and evening dresses. Her dream is to be known as an Internationally-based Caribbean Designer, bringing together a fusion of Europe and the Caribbean, through use of techniques, styling methods, detailing and construction.[ad#post-bottom]