Friday, June 26, 2009

Angry About the Michael Jackson News Coverage and a Lost Opportunity

So, I'm in the middle of what are normally the three busiest weeks of the year for my job. Tomorrow a large conference event I run takes place, so I'm in Washington, DC, running around trying to get everything taken care of.

But every chance I've had I've turned on the TV or read news stories on my cell phone, hoping that somebody would take the opportunity to talk about Vitiligo and the likelihood that Michael Jackson actually had Vitiligo and that it would possibly explain the bleaching of his skin... that somebody would actually understand how debilitating Vitiligo can be, take this aspect of his life seriously, and acknowledge the pain that Michael and others with Vitiligo go through. I know there are many other controversial things to talk about regarding MJ, but I have not once heard the word Vitiligo mentioned in any story today--a story which could actually have substance and help others. How can that be?

I have Vitiligo. I'm light-skinned, and I developed it after I was married--so it's impact on me could be considered gentle compared to how emotionally debilitating it can be to those with darker skin for whom personal appearance--especially facial appearance--is much more socially critical. (The photo in this blog post is of Lee Thomas, an Emmy Award-winning TV broadcaster with Vitiligo who uses makeup to cover up his Vitiligo, and who has written a book called Turning White.) I run a growing social network for those with Vitiligo, and this immune disorder, which affects some 1 - 2% of the population, can tear at the hearts of those who have it.

I'm hoping that one of the Vitiligo research organizations has issued or will issue a press release at this time, at least giving some basic information about Vitiligo and shedding some light on what those with Vitiligo go through. I just did a Google search and it appears that MJ originally announced on Oprah that he had Vitiligo--seems like this would be a good story for her. Anyone have any connections?


  1. I never thought that MJ really had vitiligo... it was always pretexted with the notion that it was just an excuse for bleaching. Am I wrong? I really do see a connection with MJ and a missed opportunity to address vitiligo. I have vitiligo, too .. so not being insensitive to the issue.

    I have basically given up on any change of repigmentation and try to see it as a nonissue .. but like you, I am fair-skinned and my vitiligo is mostly hidden which helps .. although I do have patches on my hands, too.

    I have joined your support Ning .. will be interesting to connect there .. I have really never discussed this with people before.

    Thanks! Frank

  2. Dear Steve,

    I have been having similar feelings while reading the coverage of Michael Jackson's death over the past few days.

    While many stories reference the changes in his appearance as he aged, often the suggestion is still that he intentionally made his skin lighter, despite it being known that he suffered from vitiligo.

    As someone with vitiligo, I am confused and disappointed that there is not more attempt made to understand this aspect of his life -- and how it must have impacted him emotionally.

    It seems to be easier for people writing about Jackson to ignore it and talk about the lightening of his skin in the context of his other efforts to modify his appearance (plastic surgery, etc).

    Thank you for writing about this - your feelings definitely resonated with mine this week.

  3. I saw and heard reports today that Deepak Chopra has been talking about Michael Jackson's Vitiligo and other serious medical disorders in a very thoughtful way. Terrific news.

  4. Anonymous12:40 AM

    Steve, thanks so much for posting this. I had no idea Michael Jackson had vitiligo and had attributed his "whiteness" to some desire of his to be white (which seemed crazy) fact, everyone I've spoken has made the same point.

    Although I never paid attention to Michael Jackson much (sorry, I grew up in a diff culture when the world was less connected), I can appreciate his loss has had an impact on folks.

    I'm grateful to you for enlightening me about vitiligo and will share the information about Michael Jackson's affliction with others here.

    With appreciation,

  5. Anonymous4:18 PM

    I believe Michael really suffered from Vitiligo. I was a skeptic up until a few years ago when I started seeing some tiny white patches around my mouth and eyebrows. One dermatologist told me he thought it was a mild form while another thought not. I'd like to believe the latter but given that my sister has lupus (which is an autoimmune disease, as is vitiligo), I am thinking the former may have something there. In any event, there are pictures posted on various websites of Michael on stage and where heavy dark makeup but he the making was being washed away by perspiration and you can see the white patches on his neck and through the makeup on his cheek etc.... So yes, I'm a believer.

  6. I still do not believe Michael Jackson suffered from vitiligo. I grew up with boy who suffered from the condition, and though he was fair skinned, he still suffered from the stigma. I've seen the "evidence" posted about MJ suffering but I've never found it convincing. It could just as easily be the effects of bleaching/de-pigmentation drugs as vitiligo. Bleaching/De-pigmentation drugs do not have even, uniform effect many times and that's more what I see in the MJ pictures. I also have always found it suspect that he never said anything about vitiligo until his skin was so fair and altered that he could no longer not offer some type of explanation. Most of MJ's close friends seem to doubt his claims as well. I think after he had already started the process of lightening his skin he discovered vitiligo - probably because he could only get prescription strength skin lighteners by claiming he suffered from the condition. I'm sure after a certain stage in his lightening it was a moot point anyway. I'm hoping that if his autopsy is released that his condition will be verified once and for all. All of this non-withstanding his passing is great opportunity to educate the public about this condition. I also will not say I know for a fact he does not have the condition, it is only my opinion. I've heard he may have suffered from lupus and that makes the claim of vitiligo much more credible since the diseases can be related. I just hope the autopsy can clear some of these matters up because if vitiligo is confirmed it would def help his image and stop the "he wanted to be white" claims that came from so many. It would be of great benefit to MJ's legacy.

  7. After viewing this I am pretty convinced he had it:

  8. Anonymous8:38 AM

    we are glad that there are people that are honest and that they bring up the truth, the media are so unbelivable in so many cases,
    Michael Jackson was one of there favite vitims.
    no one tells us about his lupus also a bad skin disease. He always said he has vitiligo .. and the others health report have to be privite. we would want the same for us too.
    what the media is doing and did with michael jackson is so unbelivabe full of hate and discrimination. Now he is daed and still they dont leave him alone, mlike always they try to make him guliy, telling now he was gay only to make us forget what he did and what he tied to bring in our world, poor kids the next victims of the media .. why they dont leave them alone..?
    i for myself i will never ever belive agian in anything the media are telling.i see now one more time how they work
    this people will be forgotten one day...they only bring there lies into the world trying to make money . not mater how.
    michels message and his music will always have great impact all over the world matter how means the media will try to ruin a dead person that canot defend himself
    i connot understadn why they do that.. can anybody answer me this question?
    R.I.P and many people in this world love you no matter what they will try to tell us in the future about you.

  9. Vitiligo comes in many different severities. In Michael Jackson's case he had a very very severe case of Vitiligo. For some people, Vitiligo increasingly affects the body with age and in some cases it doesn't. I personally know a lady who is about in her late 40s now who has Vitiligo and the older she gets, the worse it becomes and the more it takes over her face.
    I know for a fact that Michael had Vitiligo and I'm glad that people are approaching his medical conditions with concern.
    For some people, just look over them because of their ignorance.
    It's sad that Michael's health is becoming a headline now that he is dead, why not when he was alive?

    Thanks to all of you who show concern and mourn the loss of Michael with myself and many others.

    God Bless You All

  10. Anonymous2:15 AM

    Michael Jackson had vitiligo. It was quite extensive over his body, affected most of his face, and he even had depigmented areas on his lips. There are depigmenting treatments to even out the skin tone. My sister has a client who knew Michael Jackson, and she saw his condition. He wore make-up even on his hands while performing or in public.

  11. Isn't it just great that we have people like tinyarmada who think it's their place to judge Michael Jackson? Well, he's now free of judgment, having been judged by the only Judge who matters. We miss you, Michael, and we're working for your vindication.

    Yes, Frank in Mexico, you are wrong.

  12. Well, are all you doubters satisfied now? The coroner's report PROVED that Michael had vitiligo.

    Rest in peace, Michael. No one can judge you now.


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