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Vitiligo, Michael Jackson and 65 Million Others Worldwide

By HERWriter
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After someone famous dies, we often become more interested in the diseases they had which when they were alive--we paid little attention. Michael Jackson revealed that he had lupus and vitiligo many years ago, but the news was not played up to the public.

The condition of his skin was often reported on but not in a way that helped any of us understand what he or others with this condition might be going through.

Vitiligo is a skin condition where the cells that make skin color, the melanocytes, are destroyed so that white patches appear. It frequently occurs on hands, faces and neck areas. Vitiligo may occur in conjunction with other autoimmune disease like lupus and appears to have a genetic disposition as it can run in families.

Medical treatments for vitiligo include:

1. Topical steroids: Creams containing cortisone, similar to the anti-inflammatory hormone produced in the body, may need to be applied for months before results can be seen. Cortisone creams are not as effective as PUVA (see below) but are the safest drugs to use so are appropriate for children.

2. PUVA: Is thought to be the most effective treatment for vitiligo but is time consuming. A drug called psoralen is spread on the depigmented area or taken orally before exposing the area to UVA light. Treatments are given 2 or 3 times a week in a doctor’s office. Sunburn is the greatest risk after these exposures so sunscreen must always be worn. Oral psoralen phototherapy is not recommended for children under 10. (if you have a history of lupus like Michael Jackson was reported to have, PUVA therapy is also not recommended.)

3. Depigmentation: For people who have vitiglio on over 50% of their body, depigmentation may be considered. Patients apply a hydroquinone cream twice a day to the pigmented areas until it matches the whitened areas of their skin. The result is usually permanent and the person will be exceptionally sensitive to the sun and always require sunscreen for protection.

Surgical treatments for vitiligo are only considered if medical therapy is unsuccessful. People with white skin who have vitiglio have less noticeable patches but it can be very stressful and emotionally difficult for those who have dark skin.

An African American newscaster named Lee Thomas has been trying to educate people about what he and the 65 million other people in the world with vitiligo go through in his memoir “Turning White: A Memoir of Change." Larry King interviewed Lee Thomas who openly revealed how he feared his professional life of news casting was over when he developed vitiligo.

He told King that he absolutely related to Michael Jackson’s angst and decision to wear a white glove on his hand. Lee Thomas also first developed lack of pigmented areas on his left hand. He began wearing a black glove regardless of weather and especially when on the air, so that no one would notice the white splotches.

Bravely, Lee Thomas showed the television audience what he looks like before putting on his facial make up and then showed how he expertly applies and blends the colored make up so that he appears like any other black man in front of the TV camera. He writes on his website, “Even people who have known me for years avoid eye contact when they see my face without makeup for the first time,”

Lee Thomas’s website is: www.turningwhite.com
To view the youtube clip go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtHW7ptF76c

We will never know if Michael Jackson “bleached” his skin to even out his vitiglio or not. I do know that we all are extremely sensitive to changes in our face, more so than anywhere else on our body. The world can be a cruel place, especially if you are a public figure like Michael Jackson was, and people no longer see the person you are inside or are willing to look beyond the shell of your skin.


Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Add a Comment15 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for this article. :)

By the way -- a wealth of information regarding Michael Jackson's vitiligo and lupus is most definitely out there. Most reporters/journalists fail to report the details, though, for a variety of reasons.

Below is a link to a collection of everything Michael Jackson and those who knew him ever said about his vitiligo and lupus (sourced for your convenience):


It includes various statements from medical professionals, court documents/testimony, accounts from his family members, Jackson's autopsy results, etc., etc. It also includes information on how Jackson treated both diseases, as well as information on his paternal aunt, whom also suffer from vitiligo.

There are also many photographs of Mr. Jackson without facial makeup available online: http://lacienegasmiled.wordpress.com/category/vitiligo-photos/

And photos of his malar rash (lupus): http://lacienegasmiled.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/michael-jackson-and-discoid-lupus/

September 12, 2011 - 2:01pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is to answer those who still think MJ bleached his skin etc.
Think logically- Why on earth MJ needed to bleach his skin? He was a heartthrob among all races with his black skin during thriller-bad era. It was not like he had to earn white fans by going white. It's a shame his skin condition has been manipulated by the media to say negative things about him. People who still want to blame him for this or that- go watch "This is it" and get a realization what we have lost. Let's mourn that loss which is never going to be fulfilled. If you don't get it, then shut up.

November 11, 2009 - 5:49pm
EmpowHER Guest

Why on earth MJ needed to bleach his skin? He was a heartthrob among all races with his black skin during thriller-bad era. It was not like he had to earn white fans by going white. It's a shame his skin condition has been manipulated by the media to say negative things about him. People who still want to blame him for this or that- go watch "This is it" and get a realization what we have lost. Let's mourn that loss which is never going to be fulfilled. If you don't get it, then shut up.

November 11, 2009 - 5:47pm
EmpowHER Guest

Michael said he had skin condition that de-pigments his skin in the Oprah interview. He didn't use any technical terms. However, his doctors have talked of lupus and his autopsy reports have revealed about his skin patches. He himself had said it's in his family (his father's side- so it's genetic). Remember that Michael always used an umbrella when he went out in Sun. His blotchy skin is visible in his hands, neck and chest in those rare photographs where his skin was exposed (let's not forget that he always wore full sleeves and covered himself as much as he could.

With all these facts, there is no doubt that he had vitiligo and lupus. He has used make up and might also have used skin creams to even his complexion. He was in show biz and looks were very important for a visual artist like him (he was a dancer/dramatist on stage which is as important as his singing). Let's stop doubting him and I am glad that some awareness on a terrible disease is spread because of him.

November 11, 2009 - 5:44pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Michael did mention he had vitiligo and he got it from his father side of the family, LaToya had an interview and said Michael did not have Vitiligo as he stated and she said that no one on her dads side of the family has it. Vitiligo was mentioned by Michael however I don't believe he ever mentioned having Lupus. There is a picture of Michael Jackson when he was dark, when you look at his face he has a large red butterfly shaped patch starting from one side of his cheek to the other side, this is a side affect of Lupus. An article What are the symptoms of lupus? Answer from article butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks Now google Michael Jackson’s Story of Lupus – Why the media doesn’t want you to know. look at Michael's face also google: pictures of michael jackson with lupus and check out the first picture

November 11, 2009 - 6:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

Michale having vitiligo or lupus which he had both was not the problem, the problem was that people taunted him about his vitiligo making untrue statements and claiming he had no such disease but that he bleached his skin. Michael himself told the word he had vitiligo hoping to clear some peoples inquisitive and insatiable appetite to know other peoples business, however the world turned on him and called him names and made fun of him, never mind the pictures to prove he had vitiligo, never mind the fact that it is impossible to bleach your whole body, never mind the spots of brown spots showing on his white skin as he performed, never mind the fact that he walked around with an umbrella shielding himself from the sun's ability to cause him cancer due to de-pigmentation of his skin, never mind and overlook all the proof pointing to vitiligo and simply write what fools wanted to hear.

Thanks to the tabloids, main stream media and websites which don't monitor their posting degrading speech to be said about honorable people.

It's a proven fact that his diseases wasn't his problem because he continued to perform and do great and he continued to be loved by his loyal fans, It's a fact that the people and news organizations who graduated from ignorance to stupidity was his problem.

Notice that Sammy Sosa and his PR team making statements that he is not trying to be like Michael Jackson. What in the hell does that mean? Can you imagine someone bald saying "they are not trying to be like Farah Fawcett"? Some articles today stating "sammy does not have Michael Jackson disease" I didn't know there was a disease called "Michael Jackson" Why can't they simply say " Sammy Sosa is not suffering from Vitiligo"? Because they are STUPID, INSENSITIVE, UNEDUCATED, UNLOVING FOOLS. My God kill them all.

November 11, 2009 - 4:43pm
EmpowHER Guest

Wow! There's a huge difference between secrecy and privacy. If someone wanted to divulge my health issues, I'd be cringing. I don't wish to withhold info, when it makes a difference, but I need to be the one to choose how, when, where, to whom... so I don't feel emotionally, mentally, bodily, spiritually raped. Our Western world of reporting is lacking basic decency! It's essential for our inner health to be left alone in our private travails. Respect, reverence, esteem, quiet wonderment and awe... where have these qualities go? Do we really need to strip ourselves and others to the bone to feel something??? Do we hunger to see the emperor with no clothes on the feel better about ourselves? SO SAD!!!

November 11, 2009 - 11:37am

What I tried to discuss in this article is the great difficulty it is to have such a visible disease whether you are a visible person like Michael Jackson, a newscaster like Lee Thomas or are one of the 65 million others who have this incurable disease. The lupus plays in because it limited what treatment that Michael could have since PUVA isn't reccommended if you have lupus. He really was between a rock and a hard place and most of us had no idea of what inner turmoil he must have felt.

It has been stated in multiple sites that Michael Jackson was diagnosed in
1986 with vitiligo and SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) The lupus was reported to be in remission.

There is no way to really find a site that has a direct quote from Michael Jackson that he announced to the public he had lupus which would not be something he would want to emphasize to his fans. Deepak Chopra admits Michael Jackson had lupus and he is an endocrinologist. Dr. Klein Michael's dermatologist told Larry King he tested Michael for lupus and he tested positive. Clearly it was revealed to some people which is how it got in the media but it was always downplayed.

November 11, 2009 - 11:23am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Michele Blacksberg RN)

I see/feel where you're coming from, Michele, thank you. But can you try to put yourself in Michael's body and feel for even a few seconds the magnitude of invasion he must have felt, placed by destiny on the world scene when people tried to anatomically dissect him from very early on? He often felt embarrassed when the spotlight was shone on him, why? Well, I can relate to this, and not because I'm "shy" (which MJ wasn't BTW)--there is a wealth of nuances pertaining to states of blushing, such as being reticent, reserved, modest, etc., which is natural to even a newborn without social conditionings. When you try to stay true to yourself (as difficult as it is in today's world of multilayered influences and invasions on your identity), people in their brutish herd-mentality selves try to mob you with pitchforks into their own state of mediocrity. And that's what still keeps happening to someone like MJ. Why oh why can't we protect the jewels of God's creation like Michael was to the world, whose main motif was to model to us what a true human being may be and become? I supposed, as a mob, we haven't evolved yet...

November 11, 2009 - 12:09pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Totally agree with you. MJ was not at all what media portrayed him to be. He was not shy (to me- he is the most and the best expressive artist, and he was so clear with his views and statements in his interviews), he was not gay or asexual (you don't need better proof than his songs/dance moves)- let's not even talk about the tragic accusation and of course vindication by the court itself.
And yes, why does all this matter anyway? We have got to respect his private persona and thank him and the creation for his talent.

November 11, 2009 - 5:54pm
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