'As a performer and creator, I hope to continue sharing this art form in spaces that will help change the narrative around what is beautiful.'
When Amara Aleman first discovered a few white patches on her palms in 2017, she was devastated. As the spots spread up her forearms, she was officially diagnosed with vitiligo—a condition caused by a lack of melanin, which results in pale white patches developing on the skin. "I was working as a dancer performing in theater... and completely stopped dancing," the 28-year-old told BuzzFeed. "I didn't know anyone else with vitiligo in my life, and I didn't think my friends or family would understand. I spent the next year hiding away from everyone. I rarely left the house, and when I did, I was covered up head to toe and either [wore] long clothing or camouflage and makeup."
"There was so much uncertainty that I wasn’t ready for. I didn’t know if the condition would keep spreading... and it wasn’t something I was ready to face, so I spiraled into a pretty deep depression and anxiety," Aleman added. Today, she sees her spots—which she has named "ArtSpots"—as an outlet for her creativity. Aleman has gained more than 162,000 followers on TikTok by sharing makeup, story time and get-ready-with-me-style videos in which she shows how she's come to embrace her vitiligo marks by highlighting them using intricate designs that usually match her outfits.
"My parents were the first step in me coming to terms with the condition because they never treated me any differently and always encouraged me to try to see the positive in it," she shared. "So with their advice, I started going out a bit more and seeing friends again." During one such outing, Aleman reconnected with an old friend who is now her boyfriend and provided a safe space through which she could explore her new self. "[The relationship] really allowed me to tap into my creativity from a much more loving and accepted place," she said.
"I've always been really creative, so the idea to create art with my skin kind of came naturally, but once I saw the reception online and read the comments [about] how positively it was affecting those with the condition, the ideas really flourished," Aleman explained. "The main inspiration behind what initially sparked ArtSpots is the idea of taking lemons and making lemonade. Life will continue to be unpredictable and it will defeat you if you’re not able to adapt and see beauty in imperfections or differences. I share these looks because it’s a therapy for me, it’s an outlet for me to create, and I really do enjoy doing it. But I also share them for anyone who stumbles upon it and may not be in a place where they love their skin. I hope that ArtSpots encourages anyone watching to challenge themselves and their ideas of beauty."
"As a performer and creator, I hope to continue sharing this art form in spaces that will help change the narrative around what is beautiful," she added. "Whenever I get a comment from someone who has vitiligo or knows someone with the condition saying that they’re inspired by my art, it’s almost surreal," Amara said. "I remember how hard it was for me to accept my skin enough to celebrate it, but I realize every time I get a comment like this why it’s so important for me to continue. Whether or not my platform continues to grow, I feel so accomplished already knowing that I might have helped even a handful of people to recognize the beauty in vitiligo. Representing the community and continuing to spread awareness and knowledge of the condition to reduce the stigma and ignorance around it truly inspires me on a daily basis."