By Rebecca Drew
MEET the inspirational GRANDMOTHER who is baring all to show that ‘beauty is beyond skin’ after learning to embrace the vitiligo which will one day turn her skin completely white and previously left her suicidal – and the results of her shoot show how she looks absolutely STUNNING.
Model, business owner, and mother-of-four Iomikoe Johnson (37) from Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA, first noticed a tiny spot of white skin under her arm 12-years ago. At first, she thought she had cancer but it then spread to her eyes and genital area. At just 25-years-old, Iomikoe was scared that she would be bullied for being ‘two different colours’ after spending her childhood being taunted for having dark skin.
Iomikoe contemplated taking her own life as strangers would stare at her in the streets with some even refusing to shake her hand. She would spend up to an hour a day on her makeup to cover up and would only wear long sleeved clothes. It wasn’t until her fiancé Phillip told her that he loved her no matter what that she decided to ditch the makeup bag.
“I got vitiligo when I was twenty-five-years-old and I’ll never forget it, I was devastated, I felt like my world had been shattered,” she said.
“My first spot was under my arm where no one could see. When I was a kid, I used to get bullied for having dark skin and now I’m two different colours, so I feared I would have to re-live that experience all over again.
“It was painful and devastating I even thought of taking my own life many times, but I had kids which kept me going.
“People used to look at my hands and not want to touch me and they didn’t want to shake my hand. People stared and said very mean, disrespectful things to me and children were afraid of me.
“I didn’t know what this was, I thought it was cancer at first. I was scared and very emotionally depressed I didn’t know what was going on with my body, my parents were also concerned but told me no matter what they will always love me and they told me not to worry.”
Iomikoe has four children and two grandchildren and says that despite initially being petrified of her vitiligo, she loves being different and wouldn’t be able to exist without it. She admits that her family encouraged her to embrace it and she’s now a model and wants the world to see her body as art, walking human art.
“Well it would take me forty-five minutes to an hour to put makeup on to cover spots and it was becoming very tiring,” she explained.
“My fiancé told me that I didn’t need to do it anymore because he loves me no matter if I wore makeup or not. One day I woke up and I saw this picture on my Facebook of Winnie Harlow, the vitiligo model and I was like oh my god she’s so beautiful.
“She has the same skin disease as me and she embraced her beauty so I thought why shouldn’t I do the same. I woke up one day and I didn’t put on any makeup and since that day I haven’t worn makeup I was tired of people defining what they think is beautiful and it was my job to show them that beauty is beyond skin.
“My mom cried when I decided not to wear makeup anymore, she said she was so proud of me, my dad and my sisters all told me that I was so beautiful.
“My children love me no matter what, they all cheer me on they are all proud of me they love me despite of my skin they love me because of who I am and what I represent and they are my biggest cheerleaders, they encouraged me to be myself and embrace my beauty.
“I want the world to see my art. I’m walking art, human art.”
Around one percent of the world’s population or around 50-million people have vitiligo. Iomikoe has non-stop segmental vitiligo which has turned into universal vitiligo which will see her body turn completely white. She wants others to embrace who they are.
“I absolutely love myself, I love the skin I’m in, I’m so proud to be who I am I feel like vitiligo is my suit of armour and I think I am absolutely freaking gorgeous,” she added.
“I’m spotted with a purpose, it was who god created me to be, I feel like it is my job to show the world what I define as beautiful, I am a vitiligo goddess and I am proud to be uniquely different and created in god’s own image.
“I want people to know that you are not defined by your skin, you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you.
“I just want them to embrace being different and uniquely made because god made us in his own image, don’t be ashamed to be who you are, you have a purpose.
“I want people to be empowered by my story and for them to remove the mask of feeling judged I want them to know that I’m cheering them on and that they are freaking beautiful creatures and #spottedwithapurpose.
“Vitiligo can appear at any time in your life and all races can get it, vitiligo is not prejudiced anyone can get it at any time at any age.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/vitbeyivy80