Holding the dream

For British Indian real-estate professional and fitness model Ninu Galot, embracing her vitiligo has been a liberating experience

Published - February 12, 2018 02:29 pm IST

“I have howled alone in the bedroom and in the bathroom for hours, as I did not want my parents to see me crumble emotionally. I have wondered why this had happened to me, felt resentful, cheated, short-changed. I have tried every possible treatment. But nothing has healed me as much as my personal acceptance of my skin condition,” confesses Ninu Galot, a model who works in her family’s real-estate business. It has been an emotionally trying period of 14 years for her. She is determined to spread awareness about vitiligo, a condition that leaves the skin patchy because melanin-producing cells die or malfunction. Galot hopes to generate awareness and acceptance about it, especially in India, which is why she speaks about it openly. Here, she shares her own journey.

The early years

It started as a white patch, the size of a one-rupee coin, at the back of her neck, at 11. Nothing more. Suddenly, it began to spread in 2004, once she graduated from Kingston University. “I panicked. I used steroid creams, homoeopathy… nothing worked. Instead, this resulted in a reaction and the patches spread all over my body. I began to wear full-sleeved clothes to cover up my skin as I felt acutely conscious. I tried to use make-up to camouflage the patches, but it ended up spotlighting them,” says Galot.

Galot’s siblings, her older sister and younger brother, and her parents stood by her as she elected to go to Milan for treatment. It was an expensive process: a combination of ultraviolet rays and infra-red radiation that her skin was subjected to as part of the treatment to make the white patches acquire a pinkish tinge through pigment stimulation. She was then subjected to a sun tan booth to prevent the spread of the patches. “The rather painful treatment left my skin ultra sensitive, so much so that strapping on a bra was a frightful experience.

I was swathed in bandages to avoid friction from form-fitting clothes against my sensitive skin, when I boarded the flight back home to London,” she says. She lived in track-pants and loose T-shirts. By the time her skin had recovered in a couple of weeks, it was time to undergo the treatment again. “Those years were a nightmare, and no reversal of the skin tone happened,” confesses Galot.

The acceptance

Totally spent emotionally and dejected, Galot finally decided to let go of trying to ‘fix’ herself and decided to accept herself as she is. “I have embraced my imperfections. My skin is a part of who I am. I am at peace with myself now, as I have accepted my uniqueness. Sun exposure is good, and I would often fly down from cold London to sunny Dubai to soak it up,” she says. It wasn’t so easy though — this process of acceptance. “I would cover my face while lying in a bikini, cringing inwardly, thinking people around would be staring at my skin. You know, I have realised something: people don’t bother. It was my mental construct. Nothing heals you better than the power of self-love,” she says with a smile.

Galot decided to celebrate her body by becoming a fitness model, putting herself through 16 gruelling weeks of training that involved cutting down her dietary intake to 950 calories and training every day in the gym to build muscle tone. She learnt the catwalk, weighed her food portions while eating out and wowed everyone on stage with her fabulous form. “I was told I had a slim chance of making it in the International Model category in the Pure Elite competition, as I was Asian (read: loved food) and petite. It was a challenge I took up to transform myself into a fitness model. My parents were really proud that I wore a bikini on stage, after all those years of being conscious about my skin condition. Earlier, I used to wear only full sleeves and preferred trousers to conceal my condition. Today, I wear anything I want confidently.”

The mantra

Emotional positivity is the key. “Since I chose to break free of all medication and treatment last year, life has been full of sunshine and laughter,” says Galot.

She has been dabbling in dance, theatre, acting, modelling and travelling since then. Her world has changed. “I think of all those years I wasted wallowing in self pity, shutting everyone out and coping alone, and I feel blessed to have mustered the strength to pull myself out of that situation.

Now I only want to spread awareness and lend hope to thousands of girls, especially those who have vitiligo, and have developed low self-esteem as a result.

I want to help debunk myths, like eating fish and milk causes this skin condition to develop.” She believes we are our worst enemies and are unnecessarily harsh on ourselves, whether we have a skin condition or a few bulges here and there! The key lies in finding peace with who you are, and a large part of that is the way you look — naturally.

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