By Joe Roberts @jrobertsjourno
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Samuel Russell
Producer: Joe Roberts, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ethan Edwards
Storm Frederick, of East New York, has a new-found confidence after choosing to celebrate the Vitiligo she hid for years and modeling with the condition on full display.
The 20-year-old student spent years being bullied and feeling ashamed of her appearance, and says during middle school she even had to be walked home from school by her brother when the bullying became too much.
Storm told Barcroft Studios: “I used to just get insult after insult. People were just judging me and thinking that my skin was gross or asking me if I got burns or did I bleach my skin?
“It was not good to have the feeling of, ‘Why should I have to explain myself and my own appearance?’
“After a while I just started to say, ‘Ok, this is me, this is what I'm going to do, there's nothing I can change about it.’”
The young student was in her second grade of school when she first noticed her Vitiligo, which causes patches of skin to lose their pigment and become lighter.
It began with a small spot of lighter skin on the underside of her right arm, which gradually moved up to her finger, before both her hands began to show signs of the condition.
“I was completely freaked out,” said Storm. “I didn't know what was going on. I thought that it could have probably been something that I ate, I didn't know what it was.”
Storm’s mother, Elloyine Dove-Frederick, added: “I was like, ’Is that a birthmark?’ And finally I noticed her lips started to get a little bit pink and I thought she was actually wearing lipstick. After that, all hell broke loose.”
The “hell” in question was a barrage of bullying and taunting that had a profound effect on the young girl from East New York, who began to lose confidence in herself.
“It used to be really brutal,” Storm explained. “Like people actually following me home to make fun of me and tease me. So then one of my brothers had to walk me back and forth from school.
“I just wanted to stay in the house. I just wanted to stay inside.”
Once the condition spread to Storm’s face, around four years ago, the teen felt she had to hide the patches with make-up, and began a strict cover-up regime using make-up that matched her natural complexion.
She said: “I used to be terrified to walk out in the street bare face, and not just even at school. I couldn't even cross the street to go to the store without all that make-up, or walk downstairs to get a package or get the mail or anything like that.
“Even if I used to be on my phone, video-chatting with a friend, I felt the need to have make-up on in my own home.”
The cover-up process would take 40 minutes to complete each time, and Storm would have to get up an hour earlier than usual before school to ensure the patches around her nose and mouth were covered before leaving the house.
She carried this on for the last two years of high school but eventually the pressure of maintaining such a strict regime led her to come up with a plan.
Before starting her first term at college, where she now studies chemistry, Storm made a life-changing decision.
She explained: “I made a promise to myself that the minute I graduate and I go to college, I will completely just strip off the make-up and stop wearing it.
“And that's what happened. It wasn't even like I just put it on lightly or I just covered up certain spots after a while. It's like that first day I had college class, it was just ‘snap’ and I didn't wear it anymore.
“It was hard because I was extremely nervous. I was like, ‘What are people going to think?’ I felt like I was walking outside naked.”
After two years of completely covering her facial Vitiligo, Storm had found a way to embrace her condition, and says she actually got a surprising response from people around her.
“I didn't really get the reactions I thought I would,” she said. “I thought people would treat me like they treated me when I was younger but worse.
“But people looked at me like, ‘Okay we've seen it before.’ I actually became able to blend in and not be that girl with the skin or have the ‘oohs and aahs’.
“I was able to be in the classroom and actually be a student in college and not just be this weird girl that walked in the room with this skin. It was blissful.”
Those close to Storm supported her decision fully, and her long-time friend, and current boyfriend Simeon Fraser, was no exception.
“She was scared for me to see her without her make-up,” he said. “She thought I would think she would look ugly or something or I would not like her anymore.
“When she took it off, I thought she was beautiful either way, because it doesn't matter to me.”
After gaining the courage to attend college without her make-up on, Storm’s confidence increased and she began modelling with her Vitiligo on full display.
She has had numerous photoshoots already and uses her social media accounts to spread a message of embracing natural beauty.
She said” “To me modeling is showing people it's ok to be yourself. This is who I am. That's the kind of positive spiritual energy I want to bring to people.
“I feel like there is a lack of representation. To me, it's not just about skin it's about body shape. I feel like the best way to really showcase how people are is to show how they are.
“There’s no reason why someone should get bullied because their body isn’t the standard of what people think bodies should look like. It shouldn't matter if you're big or small, tall or short.
“For anybody that has Vitiligo and is struggling, just love yourself and be confident. Just know that you’re beautiful. You have one life to live and the body that you’re in is good enough.”