THE INSIGHTS 07
We live in the space and time of abundance, the source of unlimited possibilities. That freedom of too much choice leads us to habitually obsess over the process of selecting between objects, from supplements to skincare to cosmetics. Anxious about flaws that are hardly seen, eventually that nervous button is pushed enough causing dysfunction in decision making.
Technology, along with the skins cycle, are no doubt the most accessible ways to combat skin issues in modern daily living. Still, some remain a mystery or even believed to be a curse in some cultures.
Montreal Beauty, Model of NEXT Canada, Public Speaker, and Founder of the non-profit organization Born To Rise - Aiesha Robinson, who was diagnosed with Vitiligo at the age of 18. Vitiligo is a skin condition caused by reasons like an autoimmune disorder or genes, while most reasons still remain unknown. She is joining us to talk about how Vitiligo, the rarely-to-non-curable skin condition, turned out to be the healing tool for her heart and soul along with opening the door for her new journey in life.
Photography | Aiesha Robinson / NEXT Canada / Avril / Born To Rise
NL | Nicole Lui @ NOIRSTONE
AR | Aiesha Robinson
NL | Let’s talk about the pre-vitiligo days... What was your perception of life at the time and your vision of things to come?
AR | Life before Vitiligo was about me trying to own the fact that I was considered ‘too darksinned or too skinny’ to have anyone interested in me. There was always something for me to be self-conscious about. My complexion, I couldn’t do anything about, but as for my weight, I would so badly want to gain weight to have that curvaceous body that was so in.
NL | Vitiligo also happened to your grandfather. Did you see the opportunity of this as a way to be well prepared for what was coming?
AR | I was told that he was burned at work and never thought anything more of it. When I got diagnosed was when I put two and two together. I never approached him about it either because I figured if he never came out and spoke about it, it was because he wasn't comfortable enough to do so. But once it started to appear on my face, he would show me the makeup he would use to cover up.
NL | How did you react when first discovering you have the same condition? Was it heart breaking or some kind of punch to the gut?
AR | It was a mixture of both. I knew he didn't accept it and my friend of lighter complexion had a hard time dealing with it as well, so considering their insecurities living with the condition, I only assumed the worst for myself. Especially for my friend of lighter complexion because you can barely tell she has it unless she points it out. But it’s all a mental thing.
NL | We all have “awakening” moments, at least once in a lifetime. How did you make it through and would you consider this the moment leading you to that next chapter in life?
AR | Sharing my truth, getting real with myself, and becoming my own best friend was what got me through. The first time I literally held that knife to my wrist was when I realized that things need to change. I realized that I didn’t actually want to die, I just wanted to end the pain. There had to be a way to end the pain without ending my life. Speaking out and sharing my thoughts and feelings with my brother was the best thing I could’ve done for myself because I found so much comfort in doing so that it led to my purpose - giving and being a voice for others.
NL | One of my older cousins used to have vitiligo and I was blessed to have my curious mind fed with the knowledge and exposure. However, not all have the opportunity to be educated on this topic. Would you think your childhood place had a lack of education or experience which lead to the discrimination you experienced?
AR | Absolutely. No question about it. I was diagnosed at 18 and a lot of people didn’t know about it. People didn’t even necessarily know Michael Jackson had it. I think the real word about it came out when Winnie Harlow became famous to be honest. But the time of my diagnosis, there was no model in the limelight, so I took it upon myself to educate people in schools, so that the young ones wouldn’t have to face bullying because of an uncontrollable condition.
NL | That's a good call. Imagine how powerful it would be if MJ became an advocate of Vitiligo.
NL | What does the notion of uniqueness mean in your eyes? Is it the result of being in a place of homogeneity, lacking diversity, and having the labels of ordinary vs. not?
AR | Uniqueness describes every single person and element on this earth. There are no two things alike. Everything (duplicate or not) carries their own fine tune characteristic that can’t be copied. It’s harder to identify when you are trying to fit within what’s considered the norm, but when you are truly being your authentic self, that’s uniqueness because there’s no one else like you.
NL | Through your own experience and starting the empowering movement of a non-profit organization Born To Rise, you’ve been successfully raising awareness, not only helping to gather those who have vitiligo but also all ages, genders, religions, beliefs in order to share their own stories on one stage. Going into the 5th year, has it changed your perspective on having vitiligo now versus the early days?
AR | Oh yes! I once thought vitiligo was the worst thing to ever happen to me. But now I see it as part of my story, part of a challenge I needed to face in order to grow, in order to value myself and know my worth. Vitiligo is just a chapter of my story where I learn about self love.
NL | So what’s your plan after this year’s annual show?
AR | I want Born To Rise to be more than just the annual show. So the plans after this is to start executing other ideas that I have to keep inspiring people to share their story and to provide them with tools and support to RISE above adversity.
NL | Yes! Please don't stop this influential work.
NS | You landed your first modeling contract through the beauty of you and your empowering movement. This has put you in fashion shows, given the opportunities as a spokesperson of cosmetic brands, an advocate of self-love, as well as painting New York City with your name. What are your definitions of Beauty, Self-love, and Luxurious Living?
AR | As cliche as this may sound, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ I truly believe that. Self-Love: Understanding of oneself and being able to cater to your own needs unapologetically. Luxurious Living: Treating yourself to expensive things you CAN afford lol.
NS | I have a few “standard questions” I like to ask my A-Listers… What’s your vision of change in our society a decade from now?
AR | If you don’t know what vitiligo is, then you’re the weird one! lol
NS | If you were to meet your younger self, what advice would you give her?
AR | Omg, so much lol. What you think about, you attract - positive thinking*. Everything that is happening, is teaching you something. Pain doesn’t last forever, you’ll be okay!! Whatever it is you’re going through, will get you through. You Are Born To RISE!!!
NS | What’s that one question you’d like to ask our NS Insiders?
AR | Questions I always ask myself to keep me aligned with who I am are:
What is your WHY? What’s your Purpose? What are your values? What do you represent? What do you want to embody? These I feel are deep rooted questions that keep us grounded. If I have to go with one question only it would be, What’s Your Purpose?
NS | Knowing the purpose and stay grounded definitely are nonnegotiable. Not only am I the mother of a child with vitiligo, I came to this earth with a birthmark on my face which was made fun of for decades. I can resonate with what you’ve been through. I’ve learned that it’s vital for parents to educate ourselves prior to anything, with the hope to cultivate the next generation on how to cope. So thank you and I truly appreciate the difference you’re making and continuing the life education.
Water, Gingerale, Lemonade
| Mentor(s) + Inspiration(s) |
Basketball, Hanging with friends, TV, Writing down a to do list. Gratitude Journal
I am Born To Rise ( seriously, it’s not a promo thing )
Do what I have planned for the day, shower, eat, 5 minute journal, watch tv until I fall asleep.