Meet the model and woman entrepreneur who wants to remove the stigma surrounding vitiligo
On World Vitiligo Day, we bring you the story of Ninu Galot, who braved stigma surrounding her disease to raise awareness. She also participated in a fitness competition to show the world you can be comfortable in your own skin.Rekha Balakrishnan
Today is World Vitiligo Day – an initiative aimed to build global awareness about vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a skin condition where pale white patches appear on the skin, due to loss of melanin. People with this condition face a lot of stigma in the country, even today. This often leads to lack of confidence and self-esteem.
It’s here women like Ninu Galot are making a difference. She is not just another person fighting the disease, but openly speaking up against the stigma faced by vitiligo patients.
The British-Asian entrepreneur was born in Reading in the UK.
“I was 11 years old when I developed my first patch of vitiligo behind my neck. The patch remained there through my school and university days. Fortunately, since it was behind my neck and I had a bob, no one saw it,” Ninu recalls.
After she left university, Ninu had a sudden outburst of vitiligo. “I panicked. I used steroid creams, tried homeopathy, but nothing worked. Instead, this resulted in a reaction and the patches started spreading all over my body. I began to wear full-sleeved clothes to cover up my skin as I felt acutely conscious. I tried to use make-up to camouflage the patches, but it ended up spotlighting them. I then spent a lot of money travelling to Milan for treatment. Money can't buy happiness but it gives you options. I read a lot of books, information on the internet, changed my diet to try and eliminate vitiligo,” she adds.
In the journey, Ninu took the help of self-help books like Power of Now and Quantum Healing. She read Louise Hay’s work extensively, and it taught her to love herself.
“I've learnt to accept my flaws and realised it's my trademark, a fashion statement that can't be bought in Harrods,” she says.
In the meantime, she also joined her family’s real estate business at the age of 19.
When Ninu got back from a trip to Dubai in March 2017, the vitiligo was on her hands. She realised she couldn’t cover it up with clothes anymore, and decided to change her way of thinking and open up more about it.
Embracing the condition
She did exactly that by deciding to celebrate her body and become a fitness model. She went through 16 weeks of intense training to build muscle tone, learn the catwalk, and eat sensibly.
Participating in International Model category in the Pure Elite competition in London in October 2017 was one way to tell the world having vitiligo and facing stigma hasn’t unfazed her when it came to her dreams. She stood fourth in the competition.
She says of the experience,
“I decided to do a fitness competition back in London, which helped to raise awareness about vitiligo. The support I got from family and friends was admirable. I found a change in everyone around me and found a lot of support while going through my challenges. Many who didn’t know I was suffering with vitiligo saw me as someone who had everything; a confident and successful business woman. However, within, I wasn’t happy, and just smiling for people around me. But now I am smiling for ‘me’, as I’ve set myself free by being open about it.”
It was then natural for Nina to take this forward. She organised two events - one in India and the other in the US to raise awareness on vitiligo. Besides being a spokesperson for the Vitiligo Society in London, she has also set up a website and a YouTube channel in this direction.
Skin deep, and beyond
Today, Ninu is comfortable in her own skin and wants others to be too. “I’m a perfectionist and I’ll keep setting myself higher goals. It’s important in life to keep growing as a person and see what we’re capable of doing. Achievements bring happiness. The setting up of the Ninu Galot Foundation reminds me how far I’ve come in life. Before I used to be embarrassed showing off my skin now I’m living my life,” she adds.