PETALING JAYA, Sept 19 — Living with a skin condition like vitiligo is not easy.
That’s mainly because of all the prolonged stares and inappropriate comments that people often make due to the stigma surrounding the condition.
To combat these false stereotypes, a Brazilian man who has vitiligo, is crocheting dolls with different body types, skin conditions and visual impairments to help build the self-esteem of those suffering from these various conditions.
As reported by Canadian news portal CTV News, Joao Stanganelli Junior, 64, has been living with vitiligo for nearly half his life, and started crocheting because he wanted to give his granddaughter, Isabella, something to remind her of him.
Vitiligo is a non-contagious skin condition in which areas of a person’s skin experiences a loss of pigmentation, resulting in whitish patches to form around the body.
It’s also more common than you’d think, as a number of famous celebrities such as Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and Victoria’s Secret model Winnie Harlow also live with vitiligo, besides the late Michael Jackson.
After Stanganelli’s wife suggested that he take up crochet, it only took him five days to learn the craft as he created his first doll for his granddaughter.
Soon after, photos of his vitiligo doll spread amongst his personal circle, and suddenly there were loads of people asking for their own personalised dolls.
Requests of all sorts were coming in, from dolls in wheelchairs to dolls with hearing aids, as Stanganelli’s unique and thoughtful gift rose in popularity.
He said that he was “amazed by people asking for his dolls” and he was touched by the responses he was getting from adults and children alike, as they said that the dolls are “helping with their self-esteem.”
Stanganelli added that although the condition has not been an inconvenience to him personally, he knows that others with it, like children, aren’t as fortunate.
Overwhelmed by the acceptance and responses from the public, Stanganelli used social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, to showcase his dolls, and began customising dolls for others too.
Ever since he ventured online, Stanganelli said that he has found it hard to stop crocheting because of the joy he feels from people reaching out, now that his reach has expanded much further than his hometown in Braganca Paulista, Brazil.
He also had a message for people who do not understand the disease saying: “The spots I have are beautiful, what hurts me are the flaws in peoples’ characters.”
Social media users from all over the world have commended the 64-year-old saying that what he does is “awesome” and that he is a “truly wonderful man”.
While another user said that he “brought tears” to her eyes because she has a six-year-old daughter with vitiligo and would love to get her a doll as well.