A woman who developed vitiligo while planning her wedding has told how the condition which spread across her face has made her – MORE confident than ever.
Kandice Benford had just turned 30 and was busy planning for her wedding in 2016 when she noticed large white spots appearing on her body.
Since then, Kandice’s body has been transformed by a condition called vitiligo where the skin cells lose their pigmentation, leaving her with white patches of skin.
But hairstylist Kandice has embraced her condition and became a model, determined to encourage body positivity and raise awareness of vitiligo.
Kandice, 34, said: “My journey to loving myself again wasn’t easy – I had to stop listening to others and love me for me.
“I had to stop comparing myself to what I used to look like and just embrace the beautiful butterfly I was becoming.
“Now I’m in a much better place – I love me and all my spots!”
Kandice from Byram, Mississipi, was initially diagnosed with vitiligo when she was 18 years old after a small white spot appeared on her index finger and thumb.
Her condition did not spread for another decade but in 2016, her skin began to lose its pigment cells, leaving her with large white patches across her body.
She said: “Dealing with a major change was very difficult. I was sad, depressed and I didn’t like who I was becoming.
“Everyone would say you still look the same but it was way deeper than what they saw.
“When I noticed it spreading, it seemed it like I noticed new spots almost daily and now my vitiligo spots are all over my body.”
Kandice’s vitiligo happened to start spreading the year that she got married to her husband Elliott Benford, 33.
She grew incredibly self conscious of her changing appearance and tried to cover up her skin with make up but Elliott’s support helped her come to terms with her new look.
Kandice said: “I know it wasn’t easy for Elliott to see me coming home crying the first year of dealing with vitiligo – I hated the stares and rude comments but he was always there for me.
“Having vitiligo didn’t change how he felt about me.
“He’s my listening ear and comforter to let me know it’s ok and that I’m beautiful and I love him even more for taking on this new journey with me.”
Since walking down the aisle, Kandice has gained more confidence and now regularly takes on modelling jobs in her mission to encourage positivity surrounding vitiligo.
Her white spots have spread further over the past four years and now cover her body and face but Kandice has learnt to love herself and her new skin.
Kandice said: “When the vitiligo started spreading more on my face, I didn’t like it and I felt unattractive, covering up with makeup so I wouldn’t get the stares.
“One day Elliott told me you’re beautiful with the makeup and you’re beautiful without the makeup. When he said that, it’s like I had to learn to love me like he loved me.
“When I got to that point, I stopped wearing makeup and learned to embrace my natural beauty and now I’ve been published in books, magazines and I’ve done a few runway shows.
“I do modelling for fun and to help bring awareness about vitiligo, but I actually enjoy modelling so much as it has brought me way out of my comfort zone!
“I would tell anyone dealing with vitiligo to take your time to love who you are and stop worrying about how others see you. This journey isn’t easy but you got this!”