When local news reporter Lee Thomas received a vitiligo diagnosis, he vowed he would not let the condition hold him back from pursuing his dreams of being on TV.
And he hasn’t - instead turning to heavy makeup applications to cover his skin and keep the condition hidden from his audience.
But as the condition spread, ultimately leaving his hands completely white, Thomas, 50, has embraced the condition and his appearance.
According to Thomas, he was just 25 when he first noticed his skin begin to change while having his haircut by a barber in Kentucky.
Originally assuming the barber had nicked him, Thomas eventually realised it was actually a ten pence piece-sized light patch of skin on the back of his head.
Concerned, Thomas went to his mother - who assured him it was just stress.
But as the white spots became increasingly frequent, appearing on the bridge of his nose and on the corners of his mouth, Thomas sought medical attention.
“I knew something was wrong,” he told the Mail Online.
And while working as a entertainment feature reporter for WABC in New York City, Thomas received the vitiligo diagnosis - a diagnosis that would change his life.
Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches. It can affect the entire body, and occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. And while there are some treatment options, there is no cure for the condition.
For Thomas, the doctors' diagnosis initially felt like a death sentence to his career.
“He kept talking but I didn’t really hear much of anything else because I was in my head thinking my career was over. I was already thinking of what else I could do with my communications degree,” he remembers.
But rather than giving up on his dreams, Thomas turned to makeup to cover his skin and keep his appearance even - even hiding the diagnosis from his colleagues.
And despite the disease, his career continued to advance.
Now, as a WJBK Fox 2 reporter in Detroit, Thomas is completely honest about his condition - as he can no longer hide the colour of his hands.
However, that hasn’t stopped Thomas from masking his face in makeup before going on air.
According to Thomas, this is no longer out of embarrassment or shame. Rather, he does not want his condition to take away from the stories he covers - as he knows the condition can be distracting.
And rather than hold him back, Thomas realised his platform gives him a chance to advocate for others suffering from vitiligo.
Now, as an international spokesperson for the disease, Thomas hopes to one day create an environment where the condition is normalised to the point he can give up the makeup routine altogether.
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