Pippa Russell

Pippa Russell is a 31 years old childcare professional from England, currently living in Istanbul. She has a skin condition called vitiligo, and she is proud of it. “This doesn’t define me but it definitely adds something more to my life.” she says. 

When she was a teenager, her first vitiligo patch appeared on her elbow. However, she did not think too much of it because she has known her father to have the skin condition. She didn’t feel different from others until she was 18 years old and her vitiligo began appearing on her face. People would point it out and question it, which made her feel uncomfortable. She started covering her face with make-up, but it surprisingly made her feel more uncomfortable. She expresses that the feeling of being uncomfortable in the makeup was due to not being well skilled at it and it also made her feel like a fraud. However, she soon realized that she could not allow the thoughts and stares break her down.

Russell shares her reason for being more confident than expected. She shares that confidence was a lie to start with. Her parents always taught her that with confidence you ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. And she wholeheartedly believed that. She would wake up every morning and slap a big smile on her face. 

“I’d push myself to be outgoing and gregarious. I’d make jokes about my vitiligo and my OCD. So people assumed I was a confident character. Over time the fake confidence became real and I didn’t feel like I was pretending anymore.” she says.

When asked about obstacles that she may face, Russell shares that for most of her life, until she was in her early 20’s, she considered the way she obsessed over thoughts and feelings to be normal and assumed it was how everyone else’s minds were working. At the age of 23, she had a severe breakdown where she felt as if her mind had broken overnight. She woke up one morning with a really violent intrusive thought repeating itself over and over again. Thankfully, she spoke openly about how she was feeling. She had always been an open book and this worked in her favour because it allowed her to seek help. Weeks later after her first session of therapy, she was diagnosed with OCD. It took her approximately 3 years to get to a point where she felt ‘normal’ again. Those 3 years she wouldn’t have wished on her worst enemy.

She did a combination of meds and therapy. She gradually stopped taking meds 2 years in because she felt she now had the tools to cope without it. The thing that helped her the most was talking openly and honestly about everything she was thinking and feeling, even the darkest of thoughts. To her surprise, the people in her life responded well to her situation and made her feel comfortable in sharing what was going on inside her head.

Russell would implore others who may have a lack of self confidence due to outer appearances to embrace their differences. Because being different is beautiful. 

“The world is waking up to that, we have always been shown what ‘beauty’ looks like and quite frankly it’s all a lie. Now we are finding new depths and differences in what defines the word ‘beautiful’. Be part of the change and find it within yourself.” 

When asked about whether beauty needs to be seen differently in society, she responds “Absolutely.” She thinks we are all redefining beauty standards and it’s about time too! Russell believes we have been conditioned into seeing beauty as a “skinny, white, women’s world” but it actually belongs to everyone.

She says that beauty is diverse, beauty is bold and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.