Taunted Woman With Vitiligo
A woman has beaten the bullies to become a successful model and beauty queen - after shunning make-up and proudly displaying her vitiligo.
The 27-year-old dancer from Sheffield was just 12 when she was diagnosed with the condition that attacks the body's tissue and leads to blotchy white patches on the skin.
When she was at school, she was teased by classmates who joked that she had had a bad spray tan or birthmarks.
Beauty Queen Laura, now 27, is no longer embarrassed about the skin issue, that leaves her differently coloured skin.
It was only during the past year she eventually took the plunge and ceased covering up her skin - to enter beauty pageants.
Laura says she used to conceal herself behind makeup, but now she likes to show off her vitiligo. ‘I used to cover up in whatever way I could disguise the white patches that crept over my body. I used to wonder if it would affect work or relationships and I would hide behind make-up.
‘Now I want to accept it and prove that beauty really shines in all forms and we seriously need to appreciate the skin we are in.’
Brave Laura made a decision to accept her condition a year ago and went on to represent England in Miss Continental pageant - coming in first.
Now Laura is onto her next challenge, the Miss Scuba UK pageant, and will not cover up. She said: ‘At every stage of my life I have questioned if vitiligo will hold me back. ‘I now have patches forming on my hands feet, chest, shins, inner thighs, neck and now my face.
‘I've constantly kept my vitiligo under wraps, however right now as it spreads I really feel it's time to put it out there and refuse to cover it.
‘I've had insecurities my entire life and that shouldn't prevent you chasing dreams. ‘No one should feel the need to hide, but equally if they want to, then they should be respected.’
In the year 2000, at the age of 12, Laura discovered a white patch of skin on her stomach. As the spot grew she went along to her local general practitioner who assumed it was a fungal infection.
But after seeking out a second opinion from a private dermatologist, she was identified as having vitiligo, where the immune system attacks the body's tissues, often turning skin and hair white.
As a child, Laura was raised to be intelligent and hard-working. She later became a professional dancer, where she was surrounded by perfect bodies and flawless skin.
Covering up at every opportunity, Laura went onto to produce her own business, instructing dance and becoming a multi-skilled performer.
The natural beauty often thought about if anyone would ever love her despite her condition, but in July this year she met partner Rich, 36, a former Royal Marine.
Laura is now in the top 5 in the Miss Scuba UK pageant and hopes to be crowned the winner. She said: ‘My partner thinks it's cute and tells me he doesn't know why I bother covering up. ‘I'd prefer not to have the condition, but the truth is sometimes you have to deal with what you've got.’