Photography by Baveesha Photography
Story by Baveesha Naran
So you all know I have a new found passion for mountain biking, I never thought that a trail would ever lead me to my next Vitiligo story. This story is so exciting for me… here goes :
As I was riding in the beautiful trails of Kroonstad... I came across a young lady washing dishes with her mum outside, in the sun. I spotted from a distance that she had vitiligo, this intrigued me and I rode towards her. When I got there, I introduced myself... She was so beautiful, a smile of perfection, she had this cute patch of Vitiligo in the middle of her forehead, from which her hair also had a streak of blond hair. Total cuteness, it suited her so well. She, like myself, also had Vitiligo on her legs.
I began telling her that i too have Vitiligo... and lift my cycling tights to show her. She was so shocked and excited. She just shouted "WOW, you have it too". I ask her if she's comfortable with her vitiligo and does she wear shorts and dresses. She smile and said... "No I can never" I only show them at home. I can't show them anywhere else." I felt this sadness as I knew first hand what she’s going through. I told her all about LOVEauthentic, and what we are trying to do. I explained that we were trying to raise awareness to help those that are struggling with accepting themselves. I showed her pics of Alvina, Wayne and Preshiela, this excited her so much. I told her that I'll be going to lunch once i was done with the trail and asked if she’d like to join me. She agreed, this left me so excited. I hurried back, so I could pick her up.
Before we went for lunch, I asked her if she wanted me to do a shoot of her... she was excited. Since we both didn't have shorts, and I didn’t want her feeling conscious... I suggested that we both lift our track pants. The magic began thereafter... we both just laughed as we did this. I took pics of her and showed her how stunning she looked. She mentioned that she also had Vitiligo on her stomach, I asked if she was willing to take a pic of it... she said "yes yes". And then came one of my favourite pics (below). We were both so thrilled, I clicked away for an hour. During the shoot I asked if she was ok? Does she feel conscious? She said “no.. I feel great because you here.”
What a beautiful moment... so blessed I've been.
We then headed for lunch. I shared my story, told her how I battled to accept my Vitiligo, I lived in fear for so long, how I thought people would judge me. I than told her all about the first day I wore my shorts. How it felt like true freedom. How it made me realize that I'm missing out on life. I asked if she's considered ever showing off her vitiligo. She just laughed... and looked at me like i was crazy. Like that possibility was not an option. I could feel the pain hidden behind her laughter. I had been there, I remember thinking I was cursed and hated my life. I said, " my beautiful angel, you're so special, you're so gorgeous, I waited 31 years before I started living proudly with my vitiligo. Ever since I took that step, my life has changed for the better.... I'm so happy and free now. Please my friend, you're 21 now, don't wait until you're 30. I can help you through this, because i've done it through small baby steps. When u ready... let's talk about it and start slowly... one step at a time. I know you can do this. We met so I can help you." .. she smiled and we shared a huge hug.
Wow and that was my day with Matefo Koloko. Will remember it forever.
The next day she called me. She was ecstatic, she told me that she had told everyone about us meeting. Everyone's so jealous that they weren't around. She thanked me for coming through and meeting her. At the end she said, "thank you and I love you so much".
That brought me to tears. I knew at that moment that we had started LOVEauthentic for this exact reason. To help all those struggling out there...
A month later I contacted Matefo. We caught up and eventually I asked her, when she was going to wear her shorts for the first time .... she said, “ you not going believe this, this past weekend I wore a dress to church.” Omg ... we both started screaming with excitement. I couldn't believe what I had heard, we laughed and she told me all about. Sharing in that excitement was so so special. She said I had helped her change life and that she was so grateful. I just cried … this is so BIG. I myself am so grateful to have been able to help.
I would have started this years ago had I known the gravity of its impact on others. Better late than never, though.
BABY steps lead to GIANT leaps … take the first step today.
LOVEauthentic supports the Red My Lips initiative.
Red My Lips is a global awareness campaign where supporters rock red lipstick all throughout the month of April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) to demonstrate solidarity and support for survivors and start important conversations with people in their lives. Red My Lips is designed to raise visibility and awareness about the realities and prevalence of sexual violence, while combatting rape myths and victim-blaming.
LOVEauthentic asked supporters to help us make a valuable statement in support of this eye opening initiative. I thank all the beautiful ladies and our super cool gentleman for allowing us this opportunity. The awareness campaign is only a success because of you guys.
Read more on this redmylips.org
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Photography by Baveesha Photography
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This year in March I found myself at the ABSA Cape Epic, in the beautiful city of Cape Town. The experience turned out to be such an awesome adventure, I pushed so many new boundaries, I had so many new experiences and met such wholesome people along the way. So Absa Cape Epic is the most televised mountain bike stage race in the world, it takes place over eight days and is classed as hors catégorie ( a French term used in cycle races to designate a climb that is "beyond categorization", or an incredibly tough climb) by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). 600 teams or 1200 riders participate every year. This year the total distance was 748km. I went as a volunteer and was station at Waterpoint 3. I went specifically because of my love for photography and mountain biking. My photography experience was phenomenal, I believe the pictures I captured, I could not have captured anywhere else in the world (www.baveesha.com). I feel so grateful to have got that opportunity. On the other hand, this experience sparked a new dream. I watched riders, big and small, struggle, laugh, fight, cry, hope, pray and really dig deep to make it to the end of the 8 day race. Only hard work, strong will and true determination could get one there and ready to take on the beautiful yet so steep mountains. In the beginning I saw it as craziness, but by Day 8, I knew I’d ride this race one day.
Soon after I decided that :
I’ll return to the CAPE EPIC as a rider in 2017. I’ll do it for our cause, to raise awareness for LOVEauthentic | My Vitiligo Campaign.
This gives me 2 years to train, to go from cycling 20km in 2h30min to cycling in excess of 700km over 8days at the ABSA CAPE EPIC.
It was so amazing how doing it for my LOVEauthentic | My Vitiligo Campaign changed my outlook of this massive task. It made it worthwhile, gave the dream a new drive and the forward force it needed. I’ll do this to bring awareness to LOVEauthentic | My VITILIGO Campaign and ride to remind all “LOVE THE AUTHENTIC YOU”
I’m super excited about what lies ahead. Here’s some pics of my Cape Epic Experience.
A must share, is that, I went to rider the registration day in shorts. I thought to myself, that “I knew nobody here, let me go in the truest form of me and hide nothing”.
Another first, CONQUERED.
I am so glad I did, because thereafter I was so comfortable. The beauty of just being you, is so powerful and serene.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for supporting our initiatives.