My history with Julia traces all the way back to October 2015. I had initially reached out to her friend, Christine, to do a photo shoot. Christine and I ultimately never ended up meeting, but she mentioned during our short exchange of messages that Julia would be interested in taking photos. I contacted Julia in hopes of collaborating on a typical photo shoot, but a few failed attempts to schedule it kept that dream from becoming a reality.
Fast forward a full calendar year later, I reached out to her again figuring she would be an excellent candidate for this project.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Julia when you see her is the condition affecting her skin, known as vitiligo. It causes areas of the skin to lose its pigment, usually appearing as white patches. She agreed to be involved in my project, but we had already failed the scheduling bit once before. Locking her down for an interview this time proved challenging as well.
Thankfully, my schedule was flexible enough to accommodate a 3:45 AM meeting at a 24-hour McDonald’s after one of her work shifts. We promptly moved the meeting to inside her car in order to create a more private setting to discuss the topic of insecurities. It was here she revealed that while she has overall accepted the appearance of her body, there have been – and continue to be – times when she struggles with it.
Julia reflected on high school being a difficult time in her life, but not because others would make fun of her (because they didn’t). Instead, she found it difficult to accept her appearance as being distinctly different from everyone else. At this stage, the vitiligo had begun affecting the skin around her eyes – giving her an appearance Julia likened to goggles – and she recalled people asking if she had suffered a sunburn.
As an adult, the condition has spread to many other parts of her body – including large patches at her knees, where she finds it the most unappealing. In her mind, an attractive woman has long legs and the patches at her knees breaks that imagery for her. When going out, she will often conceal these patches with thigh-high socks or boots, and intends to one day cover the patches with tattoos.
Vitiligo accompanies her everywhere, and she routinely encounters people who have never seen it before and are curious. As much as Julia expressed having no issue discussing her condition with others, she did mention it can sometimes grow tiresome. During our conversation, she likened the response from others to the effect of fame, since the attention remains high with people asking questions or simply staring whenever she's in public. In extreme cases, she told me of instances when people have changed seats on a bus to avoid sitting next to her.
Side note: I knew very little about vitiligo before getting Julia involved in this project. I certainly can’t claim I did extensive research on the subject, but I read a few pages online to become more familiar. Then one day, months later, I noticed a small patch of skin on my mom’s collar bone that seemed to have lost its pigment. My mom informed me that she had noticed it and it was a recent development, but didn’t think to have it checked by a medical professional. I learned from Julia that not only does her vitiligo affect her skin, but it also has an impact on her immune system. My mom, as she does, brushed it off for a bit but I encouraged her to visit a doctor about it. She eventually made an appointment and the doctor confirmed it was vitiligo – something that probably would have gone ignored had it not been for Julia’s involvement in this project.