An Italian waitress who suffers from vitiligo has told how she tripped into nude modelling after she was approached by a photographer on social media.
Six years ago, Law student, Francesca Conti, 20, from Rome, was at a pool party when a man saw a white spot on her face.
When he told her she has vitiligo, she originally refused to believe him before being formally diagnosed just a few weeks later.
She explained: ‘I first noticed the white spot on my face during a pool party with my friends. A guy I just met, noticed that I had vitiligo and I told him I was sure he was wrong.
‘At the end of that summer I found out I was the one who didn’t realise the truth. Since then my vitiligo has been growing a lot day by day.
Francesca says that her lack of knowledge about the condition, helped her to deal with it, trusting it made her look unique.
She added: ‘At first I didn’t even know what vitiligo was; while it was growing I found out that for me it isn’t a problem at all. I kind of love it, it makes me unique, it makes me who I am.’
By embracing her appearance Francesca was able to ignore cruel comments, getting stared at or questioned by children who didn’t understand.
She said: ‘Many people tried to joke about my condition, but I didn’t really listen to them and they just stopped there.
‘I decided to embrace my vitiligo when I discovered how important it is for others to see that there’s no problem with different beauty, that everyone looks okay and could be beautiful just accepting themselves.
‘Most people don’t care, some people tell me that they admire me for my nonchalance, others compliment me for the beauty of my skin.
‘Two of the most special reactions are the ones of kids, notably during the summer, they all look so fascinated by my spots.
‘They always ask me or their relatives why I look like this, and people passing by stop me to ask where I dyed my hair silver ‘it looks so natural’ they often say – actually, it is.’
Francesca had never planned to pursue a career in modelling but tripped upon it after approaching a photographer on social media.
After interacting with his posts, he contacted her to ask if they could work together, to which she agreed and modelled with him part-time. The positive feedback from her nude photos attracted many other photographers.
‘It was all a complete accident. I followed an amazing photographer, called Mauro Saranga on social media and, after a few likes on his photos he contacted me asking me to pose for him,’ Francesca said.
‘After my first shooting with him many photographers and artists asked me the same. I think we can say that it’s not me modelling, but my vitiligo.
‘I’m not used to all this popularity and I definitely feel the responsibility of the message I’m spreading.
While she has received mixed reactions from the public about her skin, the most infuriating part of having vitiligo for Francesca is having to take care of her skin in the heat.
‘The only annoying thing is that I have to be careful in the sun or I get bruised,’ she said.
‘I only struggled once before, because of the way someone I really cared about reacted to my vitiligo.
‘But after a few bad days I told myself I wouldn’t let anyone make me feel bad about something that I like and that this is a part of me.
‘My friends and family always encourage me, and they love the whole situation as much as I do – but they’ve always loved me the way I am.
‘Don’t be ashamed, there’s nothing wrong with vitiligo. It’s not dangerous, just try to let people understand what vitiligo means.
‘It is not an infection, and no one can be damaged by your vitiligo. You were meant to be this way.
‘Find the strength in you, because you’ll be there in the bad days. You are art, just like everyone else, you just need to show it more.’