She could have been just another person fighting Vitiligo, a medical condition that results in the loss of pigmentation, in white patches visible on the skin. But Ninu Galot was not just another girl. This British Asian entrepreneur, who has spent many years in Dubai managing her property business, fights not just the stigma associated with the disease but is also a role model for those going through a similar problem. Born and raised in Reading, UK, London-based Ninu did her MBA and decided to enter business, like the rest of her family. Her vitiligo was detected as a young girl and she went through severe phases of doubt and shame but a decision to enter a fitness competition, embracing her body the way it was, changed it all. Today, Ninu travels the world, giving inspirational speeches, runs her business and uses the media to spread the message of positive body image. She shares with us her inspirational story…
WHAT WAS THE TOUGHEST PART OF BATTLING VITILIGO AS A CHILD?
I was 11 years old when I developed my first patch of vitiligo behind my neck. This patch remained there through my school and university days. Fortunately, since it was behind my neck and I had bob cut hair style, no one saw it. It was when I left university that I had a sudden outburst of vitiligo.
HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT; HOW DID THEY HELP?
My family found it very hard as I personally found it difficult to cope with. I went to all the best dermatologists, tried different treatments like UV light treatment and even changing my diet. I’ve always believed that anything is possible if you work hard for it but the vitiligo taught me otherwise. It was out of my hands.
Imagine a young woman who was sociable at university, always in trend with the latest fashion and then these white patches which appear, and the doctors say they can’t do anything.... what do you do? I remember being in Dubai on business and covering myself up so people wouldn’t see the vitiligo. I would go on the beach before everyone else as I was told sunlight would help with the re-pigmentation. If I was lying on the beach in a swimsuit I would cover my face so I could see no one looking at the white spots. In March 2016 when I returned from Dubai I noticed some white patches appear on my hands too. This was the most difficult time for me. After many emotional outbursts I realized I had to change my way of thinking. A friend suggested reading a book by Louise Hay Called “Power is within me.” Louise Hay taught me about self-love and to accept the white marks. It was in October 2016 that I decided to go travelling on my own. Whilst travelling I realized no one noticed the white marks apart from me. They noticed me for the person I was. It was then upon my return that I moved up to London and entered a fitness competition.
HOW DID YOU COPE WITH THE TREATMENT AND ITS AFTEREFFECTS?
Vitiligo changed my life and I feel like I lost out on many years of my life. Fourteen years after university I had UV light treatment in Milan. It was a rollercoaster ride. There were times it got better and then worse. I was having the treatment every two weeks initially and as it got better, it was every four weeks. In between the treatments, my skin was very sore which meant I couldn’t wear fitted clothing and wasn’t sociable. I tried to hide the fact from others that I had vitiligo. It was because I was embarrassed about it and didn’t want people asking me questions about it.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE EAST AND THE WEST IN TERMS OF ACCEPTING PEOPLE FOR THE WAY THEY LOOK?
When I spoke about vitiligo in the media in January this year, I received immense love. People who had been suffering with vitiligo loved that finally somebody was speaking about it. Many people messaged me on Instagram and told me about the stigma attached to Vitiligo in India. I decided to then raise awareness in India and to date have done 2 events there. People in India still believe it’s contagious, they don’t want to marry someone with it or won’t want to have kids as they don’t want their children to have it. Society treats people with it as outcasts.
WHAT MADE YOU TURN TO MODELLING?
Entering a fitness competition in London was the best thing I ever did. When I was on stage, I embraced my vitiligo and showed it off. I finally felt free and the vitiligo no longer had any hold over me. It was then that I decided to speak about my challenges with vitiligo and to help others.
WHAT WERE THE INITIAL HURDLES?
Acceptance and letting go was the hardest thing with the vitiligo.
WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS REGIMEN CURRENTLY?
Whilst I was competing I was training twice a day - six days a week. I was on a very strict diet and calculated everything that I ate. Now I train 4/5 times a week. However earlier this year when I did my events in India my training/diet was affected.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE UAE?
I’ve always found the people loving, friendly and caring. Even when on the beach when I was embarrassed and covered myself, this person I met said to me why are you covering your vitiligo? You’re beautiful. I didn’t see it and I hated the vitiligo.
HOW DO YOU SPREAD THE MESSAGE ABOUT VITILIGO HERE?
To date I’ve been in the media in both India and UK. I’ve done two events in India and one in the US. I am a spokesperson for vitiligo society in London. I have just set up my website and you tube channel. I also plan to have an event in Dubai later this year to spread the message and raise awareness for Vitiligo.