Stratford girl with skin condition gives mother strength

Dave Stewart
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Tracy Simpson, left, and her nine-year-old daughter Maria have a skin condition called vitiligo.

Tracy Simpson of Stratford has been bullied, called a zebra, a cow, asked if she has leprosy or if she was burnt.

Inspired by her nine-year-old daughter, Maria, Simpson decided to tell their story to help spread the word about World Vitiligo Day, which takes place today.

Tracy and Maria have vitiligo, an autoimmune condition that turns skin white. It occurs when the cells responsible for skin pigmentation die or are unable to function.

It doesn’t hurt, physically, and it isn’t contagious.

It can hurt emotionally. The condition can be noticed quite easily by anyone.

Nearly two per cent of the world’s population has it.

Michael Jackson, the late pop singer, had it.

Winnie Harlow, better known as the winner of America’s Next Top Model, has it, too.

Maria told The Guardian on Tuesday it was her idea to speak to the media.

“I want to show people that it’s OK to be different,’’ Maria said. “You don’t have to be scared of people judging you. It’s OK to be just who you are.’’

Tracy struggles to maintain her composure listening to Maria’s words.

“I’ve learned so much from Maria. I’ve been scared my whole life to go out in public in a short-sleeved shirt,’’ Tracy said.

“It makes me cry because when she started getting spots I was so scared. It’s your flesh and blood. I thought ‘What have I done? I’ve given her this. I was worried about how I’d be able to support her through it because I’ve always struggled with it.’’

Tracy said she has struggled with self-esteem issues her entire life, dealing with people who bullied her because she looked different. She wants to be strong for her little girl but, as things turned out, it’s Maria that is giving her mother strength.

“I was born strong,’’ Maria says matter-of-factly. “I think it’s OK to be different.’’

The precocious nine-year-old explains that she handles every question from other children with relative ease.

“If everyone was the same the world would be a boring place and it wouldn’t be fun.’’

Tracy said people aren’t necessarily trying to be cruel. She realizes they stare, sometimes, because they’re simply curious.

“Even good people stare. It’s natural. If we can just get this story out there, have a person say ‘Hey, I saw you in the paper’ instead of staring. Then we’re getting somewhere.’’

Tracy said her daughter has always worried more about others than herself. Maria talks about raising money for children in Haiti and says she next wants to help raise money for an orphanage.

Tracy said she’s thought about telling their story many times before but just couldn’t find the strength to pick up the phone.

On Tuesday, Tracy found that strength — in the form of her nine-year-old daughter.

“She has already asked if she can take the newspaper to school with her on Wednesday. She’s putting it right out there,’’ said mom.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: The Guardian

Geographic location: Stratford, America, Haiti

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Recent comments

  • gladys kenny
    June 26, 2014 - 07:28

    sometimes our children are our greatest teachers, our greatest strengths, our bravest heroes. Bravo Maria ! you are such an intelligent, beautiful and mature young lady.

  • Pam Kelly
    June 25, 2014 - 16:54

    Beautiful girls inside and out!

  • Sandy Terakita
    June 25, 2014 - 15:19

    Good job educating the public! Knowledge is power!!

  • Tammy MacPhee
    June 25, 2014 - 13:52

    I've knownTracy since we were little girls, she was beautiful on the outside just as much as she was on the inside. Tracy you are raising an amazing girl to be able to speak out about this . Great job my friend !!!

  • Barb Kyle
    June 25, 2014 - 13:01

    We all know people can be very cruel and it is a combination of ignorance and insecurities on their part. Everyone knows you are an absolute beauty inside and out......and I am positive Maria is a total reflection of you!!

  • Kerry Molyneaux
    June 25, 2014 - 12:28

    Tracy you are an amazing woman and always have been. You were so kind and friendly when we went to school together. I know what it was like to get picked on and bullied. It is so heart breaking when you have to worry about it for our kids. I also know how you feel there too, my son has a heart and lung problem and goes to IWK for surgeries all the time and misses time from school or he is sick all the time and kids bully him solid. It is not right at all. You and your daughter are so brave and if she ever wants to talk to an other kid that has the same thing happening please contact me. Take care to you both and big hugs. Always keep smiling:)

  • Islander Guy
    June 25, 2014 - 11:45

    Tracy first off you have done a great job with your daughter. You must be really proud of her. Second, like others on this site who went to school with you I remember you from high school. You were a grade higher than me. I do remember your skin as well, and like everybody else remembers as well that you were/are one of the prettiest girls I ever laid eyes on. It goes to show that even though in everybody's eyes you were beautiful, all it takes is a few idiots who bully to kill somebody's self esteem. Just remember that those who bully are not bullying you because they don't like you, they're bullying you because they don't like themselves.

  • chrissy
    June 25, 2014 - 11:44

    I don't understand what the big deal is.... I have three children ...Two of the three have visible conditions. ..one has down syndrome and the other vitiligo. ... I have never emphasized these issues with them. .. I don't ignore it either.... it just is what it is and you celebrate who you are and not what you have. I grew up over weight with a scare on my cheek and forehead.... lol most of the time I don't even notice them. My point is simple. .. you can't control what others may think or say... you can control how you react.... I choose to be happy irregardless. .. and that is what I teach my children

    • Tracy
      June 25, 2014 - 20:07

      Hi Chrissy, You are awesome! You literally hit the nail on the head. Maria gets it too.. I was bullied and became very insecure, which is a terrible way to live. I am so proud of you for raising your kids to love themselves for who they are. Vitiligo should not be a big deal.. I totally agree.. It's two different colours of skin. Let's all celebrate our differences and love each other just a little bit more. xo

  • Tracy
    June 25, 2014 - 10:54

    I wish I could hug every one of you today.. It's definitely a waterproof mascara kind of day. Thank you to every single one of you for the support.

  • Karen
    June 25, 2014 - 10:29

    I remember meeting Tracey when we were kids, she was maybe a year or two older than I was (which seems like a lot when you're little) and yes I noticed her skin, but when I think back, what I remember most was being slightly intimidated because I thought she was so pretty. And then being excited because this really pretty girl was so nice.

  • What I See
    June 25, 2014 - 10:29

    Two beautiful ladies inside and out...

  • Rick
    June 25, 2014 - 10:25

    Tracey, We went to high school together. Yes it's true that most people noticed your condition. It's also true that most people thought of you as one the the prettiest girls in school. I understand that some people bullied you but don't forget the ones who could see past that. It says a lot about the type of person you are if you are raising a child who is doing what she is. All the best.

  • Parent
    June 25, 2014 - 09:22

    What a beautiful and strong young girl! Best of luck, Maria, in getting your message out there. You will go far in life with your wonderful positive attitude!

  • Tracey
    June 25, 2014 - 08:51

    Tracy, I knew you may years ago and you were always beautiful inside and out. Maria is lucky to have you and you her! Children of this generation are so much braver, open minded and smarter than we were. Hoping that there are many more Marias out there letting kids know that being different is OK.