IT is true that while popular perception on beauty changes over time, it is unforgiving when it comes to blemishes on the skin.
Any woman whose complexion is anything but flawless has little to no appeal. That was until Sonya Danita Charles(pix) came along.
Sonya, who suffers from vitiligo, a condition that causes skin to lose some of its pigmentation leaving white patches on the skin, has sashayed down the runway many times.
Standing at 180cm, the 28-year-old’s lithe figure turns heads everywhere she goes. Not surprisingly, she has made a name for herself in the local fashion scene.
However, the glamour of the catwalk was not even on her list of career options while growing up.
“I was referred to as ‘Dalmatian’ by the other kids at school. Parents would pull their children away from me,” she recalled. Sonya told theSun that it began when she was eight years old.
“It first appeared as a small dot on my right cheek,” she said. A medical examination confirmed that she had vitiligo.
By age 12, she already had patches on other parts of her body, forcing her to seek treatment. She recalled the pain of her skin burning and peeling during therapy sessions while in her teens.
“It was painful. I was put on traditional cure beverages, herbal tablets and a vegetarian diet for two years,” she said.
It progressed to an injection of steroids every three weeks which affected her kidneys.
Aside from the physical pain, the mental trauma of being “different” was even more agonising.
“I was told that I was a ‘shame’, that no one would marry me,” Sonya said.
At age 17, with her parents’ support, she discontinued the medical treatment.
With her parents’ blessings, Sonya left for Los Angeles to study fashion and business marketing.
She had to work three jobs but before she knew it, she was part of efforts to promote major brands in Hollywood.
“It was exciting, and no one talked about my skin. In fact, they were friendly and even offered me jobs in publicity campaigns,” she said.
Armed with a new sense of confidence, Sonya returned home and landed a job with fashion retailer Forever 21. As she was settling down to a comfortable life, another surprise popped up.
“A photographer walked up to me at a shopping mall and asked if I would pose for a photo shoot. Modelling was something I always wanted to do, but never had the confidence to do it,” she recalled.
However, she agreed and was told that she could post the photos on her Instagram account www.instagram.com/sonyadanita/.
Her photographs have garnered a lot of attention on social media and soon she was offered modelling gigs, including KL Fashion Week 2018, and to be part of Levi’s advertisement campaign “I Shape My World”.
“The best part of the campaign was the fact that they did not change my story. The advocacy message went global,” she said.
Sonya now sees herself as a role model for her younger audience.
“I don’t promote brands that I’ve never heard of even if they offer a lot of money.
“I believe my followers on Instagram are with me because they know the truth about me,” she added.
A cure for vitiligo has yet to be found, but for Sonya her wounds have already healed.