Vocalist Rochelle Richards started to develop vitiligo when she was 11 years old. The first signs of the skin condition appeared on her hands. By her teens, small freckled marks began to show on her face. At this point Rochelle says her childhood became more complex and challenging: “I would always put my hands in my pockets, but it was impossible to hide my face. This was when I truly realised I had a visual difference and developed a complex. As I got older, I started to ask myself: ‘why me?’ I fell into deep depression and felt suicidal at one stage. I knew I had to do something about it.”
For Rochelle, the journey towards acceptance was a long one. But her love for being on stage and hitting the open mic circuit to perform poetry had a positive impact on her wellbeing. Plus, sharing her experience on social media and connecting with others facing similar challenges was nothing short of inspiring.
Rochelle is also thankful for her supportive network of friends who she fondly refers to as sisters. They’ve helped her redefine herself, encouraging her to develop a more positive outlook and love for her ‘new skin’. She says: “A sister of mine came up with a phrase I use as encouragement to this day: ‘Loss of pigment, not purpose.’ I really related to this phrase and began to live my life by it from that day forward”.
This year Rochelle is planning to launch her own brand, Da People Dem Skinspiration. Her goal is to build a platform on behalf of those who feel they have no voice while also using experiences from her own personal journey to educate and advocate: “I want to encourage, motivate and inspire others with vitiligo and other visual differences,” she says. “I aim to teach others how to love themselves and the skin they are in.”
Rochelle has come a long way from the teen who felt ashamed to show her hands in public. She has appeared on Channel 4’s Face to Face with Katie Piper and was the face of BBC3’s Perfect Day campaign, appearing on billboards across central London. Her story and positive mind set is an inspiration to us all.