When Ashley Soto was first diagnosed with vitiligo — a disease that causes the loss of skin pigment in blotches — at 12 years old, she decided she wanted to hide it from the world.
Within months, the condition had spread to 75 percent of her body, and as she explained in an interview with The Daily Mail, her desire to hide her skin only intensified after a little girl at the beach saw her in a bikini and asked if she had “showered in bleach.” The remark led her to start wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants every day.
“I was so shocked that someone said that to me that I cried and cried, I didn’t want to have the condition any more,” Soto told The Daily Mail. “It made me want to start hiding away from people and left me covering my skin, as I didn’t want people to make fun of me.”
But by the time the 21-year-old reached her late teens, she decided that she didn’t want to hide any longer — and instead, wanted to find a way to love and embrace the skin she was in. After setting up little challenges for herself in order to get more comfortable with exposing her skin, the Florida woman ultimately realized how beautiful her vitiligo was when she decided to trace it with marker.
“I never realized how beautiful my vitiligo was until I traced it with a black marker, it really helps to bring out the different colors of my skin,” she told The Daily Mail. “I was always trying to find a way to look at my skin in a positive light, I couldn’t do that before starting this. Now what others would perceive as an imperfection I have made into something more beautiful and made it more accepted than before.”
From there, Soto began to recreate other works of art on her body, including Van Gogh’s iconic Starry Night — and slowly began to love her vitiligo more and more.
“Thanks to doing this I’ve learned to accept myself more than I did before,” she said.
For more of Soto’s beautiful body art, you can follow her on Instagram right here.
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