Ashley Soto was just 12 years old when she was first diagnosed with vitiligo-a pigmentation condition that causes the skin to lose color in blotches. It only took a few months for the blotches to spread to 75 percent of her body, making it easy for others to notice.
While she already felt self-conscious about her skin, things got worse when a little girl saw her in a bikini and asked if she had “showered in bleach.” Those harsh words led Ashley to start wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants every day in a desperate attempt to hide her body.
“I was so shocked that someone said that to me that I cried and cried. I didn’t want to have the condition anymore,” she told the Daily Mail. “It made me want to start hiding away from people and left me covering my skin, as I didn’t want people to make fun of me.”
After years spent trying to cover her condition, Ashley finally gave up in her late teens. It was then that she started to look for ways to embrace her “imperfection” and turn it into something that would inspire other people.
Ashley realized she felt the most beautiful when she began looking at her skin blotches as a work of art. (Related: Breastfeeding ‘Tree of Life’ Photos Are Going Viral to Help Normalize Nursing)
“I never realized how beautiful my vitiligo was until I traced it with a black marker. It really helps to bring out the different colors of my skin,” she told the Daily Mail. “I was always trying to find a way to look at my skin in a positive light. I couldn’t do that before starting this. Now what others would perceive as an imperfection I have made into something more beautiful.”
Since she began sketching on her skin, Ashley now has a new-found love for her vitiligo and has recreated several works of art on her body, including Van Gogh’s iconic The Starry Night.
“Thanks to doing this, I’ve learned to accept myself more than I did before,” she said. Head over to Ashley’s Instagram to see more of her breathtaking body art.