A model who was compared to a COW by strangers because of her skin condition has become the face of a make up brand – and now features on billboards across the US.
Aiesha Robinson, 29, was diagnosed with vitiligo in 2007, a skin condition in which large white patches develop all over the body due to a loss of pigmentation.
She was an amateur model before her diagnosis but the condition, which affects her hands, elbows and face, had a severe impact on her self-confidence.
Aiesha considered taking her own life in 2014 as years of strangers’ stares and nasty name-calling left her at her lowest point.
But she had an epiphanal moment following a conversation with her brother Jamie Robinson, 32, who encouraged her to learn to accept herself.
The model founded her own non-profit Born to Rise in 2015 which helps people share their adversity during an annual storytelling show.
The 5ft 10in beauty was stunned when she was approached to be the face of Dermablend, a make up brand designed to provide natural-looking coverage with skin imperfections.
The model said she was brought to tears when she saw her image on a New York billboard as part of the brand’s national campaign.
Aiesha, of Montreal, Canada, said: “Before my diagnosis I had modeled a little but but it was never a serious passion or career for me.
“The changing point for me came in 2014. I basically had an epiphany.
“I was contemplating suicide and one day I had a knife in my hand.
“I just didn’t want to feel the pain anymore.
“I’ve been called a cow, and told I have been cursed. People would tell me how bad they felt for me.
“I knew suicide wasn’t the way out though and I didn’t want to do that to my family.
“I had a talk with my older brother who is so wise.
“He basically said Aiesha you need to realise the vitiligo isn’t going anywhere.
“You are going to have to deal with it the rest of your life.
“You have to learn how to rise above it instead of having a pity party.
“My new aim is to spread a message through education.
“I set up Born to Rise, which helps people share their own adversities through storytelling.
“Every year we throw a show.
“It was after one of these shows that I was approached by a Canadian modelling agency and was connected with Dermablend, a make-up brand.
“When they asked me if I wanted to front the campaign it was an oh my goodness moment.
“The campaign was international, I was on billboards in the US and Canada.
“To see myself on a billboard in New York was surreal. I shed tears when my friend sent me that picture.
“To go from such a negative place where life wasn’t worth living to having this moment and this self realisation was incredible.”
Since then Aiesha has featured in campaigns for Missguided and WeBay and says she feels proud to show others with vitiligo that there is a life to be had after a diagnosis.
Aiesha said: “I feel absolutely blessed and I have a very clear purpose now to show other people with this condition that it is beautiful and there is a future.
“What is life without challenges?
“When I was first diagnosed I worried I would be ugly, that I would lose all my friends and I would never find a boyfriend.”
“But I feel like I’m in a good place now and I hope that through my organisation I’m helping other people with vitiligo.”
Aiesha is ambitious and hopes to take her message to international fashion platforms.
“It is my dream to walk the runway at New York and Paris fashion week,” she said. “That would be amazing.”