Vitiligo is a common depigmenting skin disorder with an estimated prevalence of 0.5 to 2% of the population worldwide. It is often characterised by the selective loss of melanocytes (a cell that produces and contains the pigment melanin) which results in chalky white patches on the skin. Though often dismissed as a cosmetic problem, the psychological effects are devastating and lead to esteem issues.
Over the years we have seen a rise in so many influential people coming out of their vitiligo shell and thriving regardless of their skin condition. This has helped usher in a generation of young people who are unapologetic about how they look and are following closely behind the footsteps of their predecessors by being activists towards the vitiligo cause.
In Zimbabwe we have our very own Christine Tafadzwanashe Matyavira. She is a bubbly character, a gift to young women and boys alike suffering from vitiligo and self-esteem issues. Getting in touch with her and requesting for an interview for the Marigold series was the highlight of my week, like the queen she is, she was welcoming and more than delighted to take the interview and share her story.
Cliché……..but let us give it a go, who is Christine Matyavira?
Christine Tafadzwanashe Matyavira is a short soon to be 22 year old little woman (LOL!) from Kwekwe, Mbizo. She’s a 2nd year film student at the University of Zimbabwe who is an aspiring script writer and a story teller.
Tell us who else knows you best apart from yourself and how does this person inspire you?
My baby sister knows me best more than anyone else. Evelyn inspires me in a million ways. She’s a bold woman who is firm and honest to herself. She’s the most confident being I know. A hero……my hero. She stands up for me in every aspect of life.
Please tell us about your current work in regards to vitiligo, do you feel you are making an impact, are you happy with the response, has it made a difference in the local, regional and international community?
To be honest. I’ve been going through a lot. I’ve kind of taken a step back. However, ever since I posted a picture embracing my skin, the outcome has been remarkable. People with vitiligo and different self-esteem issues in Zimbabwe are taking things positively and beginning to love themselves and feel comfortable in their skin. I hope to make an impact regionally and internationally with time.
We have seen a rise in celebrities speaking openly about vitiligo from Michael Jackson, Winnie Harlow (Americas Next Top Model) and Leleti Khumalo (South African actress) amongst many others. Which celebrity inspires you the most and what do you love about their story?
I love Winnie Harlow’s story more than anyone else because I kind of relate to it especially linking with when she started experiencing vitiligo patches. She was still a little kid like I was when she started experiencing the skin changes which were accompanied by a tough and rough childhood. She was being called names and stigmatized for having a different skin. However, she grew up to be one of the most recognized super models celebrated for her beauty.
As an Activist, what is guiding your choice of actions?
The way I grew up definitely! The gut wrenching experiences……No!…. I’d never want anyone else to go through that mental abuse and physical bullying I went through. I believe whoever starts going through the process of skin changes credited to vitiligo should at least have someone who is there as a support structure to tell them that it will all be okay. This is what guides my choice of actions as an activist.
What is your biggest fear as an activist?
My biggest fear is having bullies or people who are against everything that is for the good. Yes, as an activist or anyone who has made it at that, you will still come across cyber bullies and trolls who seek to bring you down. I do not want to break under this pressure and wind up losing my motivation to be helpful and make a difference.
Did you ever go through a phase of trying to cover yourself with make up?
With this one I’ve never, thankfully! I have just always been confident in my skin regardless. Thus, have never felt the need to hide. I recall my parents trying to protect me from the burns by advising me not to expose the spots. Am sorry mum and dad but I never did and I’ve never really wanted to cover up.
Do you believe the world has shifted and is accommodating towards vitiligo?
The world is working towards it definitely, kudos world! However, I can’t say we are at a point where people like me feel safe and proud 100% as most of the people still don’t know what vitiligo is. Overall the numbers are growing, more are accommodating and taking time to learn about vitiligo and that is indeed comforting and assuring that we are headed in the right direction.
Kindly share with us one laughable myth you have heard about Vitiligo?
So people think vitiligo is contagious, they think if you are to come in contact with someone who has it you automatically get it (lolest).
What is your favourite holiday and why?
Africa day as it is my birthday
What is your idea of a perfect first date outfit?
I’ve never been on a proper date before but I think a short little dress and heels.
Any new projects in the pipeline?
Yes ma’am, might pursue acting, it’s something I’m taking a keen interest in.
Acting wow, interesting, what is your favourite movie genre?
I love Crime investigation movies.
Would you want to play the part of an Iron Lady that everyone fears or the sweet girl next door?
It has to be a role similar to Annalise Keating’s in “How to get away with murder”……She was a bold, fearless, risk taker and at the same time the most caring woman there was.
When did you first realise you were making a difference and how did you feel in that moment?
8 February 2020. When I had my first shoot, the comments were overwhelming and the DMs….gosh! People were asking questions. Some were asking for help and most wondered how I was that confident to put myself out there. It was a beautiful moment for me because I celebrated my courage and realised that it had inspired somebody else to be comfortable in their skin which was “unbelievable!”
Finally, what message do you have for young girls and boys out there being bullied?
All I can say is we can’t fight everyone out there who has a foul mouth or bullies us. However, we can stand against them and not let them bring us down. Bullies are intimidated easily when they see that you’re not having anything they are dishing out. Again, the route of ignoring them is ideal if one isn’t confrontational. Silence intimidates a bully.
Doing this interview left me inspired and I hope it inspires you too. It had me somewhat nostalgic and thinking about one of my first articles with Girl Grandeur, “No Scars To your Beautiful”. I believe the message still stands true, relevant and I will repeat it…..One does not have to succumb to the worldly standards of what beauty is and isn’t. Each of us are beautiful in our own unique way, thus, we do not have to a change a thing, the world will eventually change its heart. “No scars to your beautiful, we are stars and we are beautiful!”