TV chef Dean Edwards' Experiences with Vitiligo
TV chef Dean Edwards has had vitiligo since he was a child. Now he blogs about it.
“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have vitiligo,” says Dean Edwards, whose earliest memories are of finding white patches of skin on his foot.
By the time Dean was eight or nine, he’d developed the same patches on his hands and knees: “I became quite curious about it at that point. I’d take a black pen and draw around the patches to make them look like a map of the world.”
Dean’s GP diagnosed vitiligo, a condition that causes areas of skin to lose their pigmentation.
“He said there was nothing they could do, and that was that. I had to get on with it.”
With the patches becoming more widespread, other people began to notice them too.
“Mostly it provoked curiosity. Other kids would ask me about it and there was some name calling, things like ‘cow hands’. Kids are kids. It didn’t bother me particularly, I was always quite self-confident,” he says.
That natural confidence has stood Dean in good stead. After coming second on the BBC programme MasterChef in 2006, his TV career blossomed, appearing first in a cookery slot on ITV’s This Morning before becoming a regular on the Lorraine show.
A brief guide to another skin condition that affects numerous people…
Despite his self-assurance, Dean took measures to minimise the appearance of the patches. He grew a beard to cover ones that developed on his face, and took a decision to stay out of the sun.
“My dad’s side of the family have quite dark colouring, which I’ve inherited. I tan easily. It means in summer the patches show up a hell of a lot,” he says.
It was during summer that TV close-ups on his hands revealed the patches that Dean normally relied on make-up to conceal. He started getting trolled on social media.
“There were lots of comments from people making fun about my ‘fake tan’ washing off.”
One day, while out shopping in London’s Oxford Street with his daughter Indie, Dean had what he describes as a “eureka moment”.
“We passed a shop that had an ad of a girl with vitiligo in the window. Indie got so excited and wanted to know why I covered mine up when the girl in the photo wasn’t hiding hers,” he recalls. “That really sunk in. I realised I was mainly covering up for other people.”
With Indie’s comment acting as a catalyst, Dean stopped covering his patches and began to use his social media presence to raise awareness about the condition, an act he describes as being therapeutic. Now a regular blogger on the subject, Dean also makes television appearances in which his condition, and not his culinary skills, is the focus of the conversation.
“There’s a big pressure in society for people to fit in,” he says. “And while I still have insecurities about vitiligo, there’s been a change in my mentality. I don’t hide it any more.”
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a condition which makes the skin, and sometimes the hair, turn white in patches. While its causes aren’t fully understood, it is regarded as an autoimmune condition with a genetic component. Vitiligo affects one in 100 people. Half of those with the condition develop it before the age of 20. The condition is benign, but one where people often experience a significant psychological impact. Vitiligo can’t be cured, but treatments exist that can be effective in slowing down its spread, or repigmenting the skin.
For more information visit www.vitiligosociety.org.uk