Maya Johnson is a 6-year-old aspiring model, whose fierceness, confidence, and unique look do not go unnoticed on Instagram.
About a year ago she was diagnosed with vitiligo, but not without being uncertain of what her condition was for a few months first. On a family vacation to California, her mother, Sh’nae Johnson, noticed her little girl had a skin decoloration in her chest. Upon returning to their hometown of Ohio the diligent mother took her to the doctor, who at first misdiagnosed the spot as tinea versicolor. Despite taking medicines, Maya continued to get more spots, and then, for a second time, Maya was misdiagnosed — this time, with eczema.
Finally, after visiting a dermatologist Maya was diagnosed with vitiligo, a chronic skin condition that causes skin to lose its pigmentation.
“My heart was broken knowing how cruel the world can be, and especially kids. I hated that Maya was going into kindergarten while recently being diagnosed with this skin condition,” Sh’nae tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Maya and her family decided to embrace this unique trait and saw it as an opportunity to bring diversity into the modeling world.
In a recent post where she is modeling, Maya wrote, “I’m 6 years old and have been diagnosed with Vitiligo for over a year and in my short time of life, this past year has been my best year. My mother taught me that God isn’t finished creating his most favorite masterpiece. People stare because they are uneducated and unaware. I’m always open to telling my story but the catch is my story is just beginning.”
Sh’nae and Maya’s grandparents have built up her confidence. “She is very knowledgeable on her condition. If we are out or at the park and a kid asks me what happened or what’s wrong with her skin I encourage them to ask her themselves, as well as encourage Maya to be very vocal about it. I generally explain to adults who ask without a problem,” says Sh’nae.
People have voiced their support for Maya on Instagram: “You are beautiful! And when people stare they’re just shocked because they’re looking at a beautiful masterpiece,” wrote a commenter.
Another commenter added, “Your Mom is the bomb! Keep on preaching and teaching young lady. You are beautiful inside and out.”
Maya’s aunt suggested making her an Instagram page for modeling. Maya’s Instagram went viral quickly.
Her bigger-than-life confidence is resonating within the vitiligo community as well. Even model Winnie Harlow showed Maya love and support. In one of her photos, the model wrote, “Baby girl you bettttaaaa.”
“I had moments where I questioned supporting her dreams of being a model because I felt like I was putting her in harm’s way. Her Instagram was supposed to be for networking, spreading vitiligo awareness, and positivity. People are so cruel and would comment hurtful things,” says Sh’nae. “Just when I thought about deleting it Winnie Harlow featured her on her page and made a few comments under some of Maya’s pictures. I felt that was a sign from God not to give up.”
And at such a young age, Maya is inspiring others to embrace and love themselves.
A commenter wrote, “You are an inspiration to me! I too was diagnosed with vitiligo, and seeing how proud you are in your skin and at such a young age makes me embrace this condition even more. It makes me look at it as a blessing to be a part of the 1 percent of people who are diagnosed with it. You’re such a beautiful girl and always remember that in our skin we win!”
The little diva is making her mark in the fashion industry already. She landed her first campaign. Maya is now the face of KidRaq Luxury Eyewear for Kids.
Raquel Smith, the founder of KidRaq, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I was so happy to have Maya as my ambassador for my brand; she is a confident young girl and I just adore her.”
On what her daily advice to Maya is, Sh’nae says, “I tell my daughter ultimately beauty comes from within and she is no better than the next person. The world is not a nice place but if everyone played their part in simply being positive and just treating others how you expect to be treated, it could be a better place. God made everyone in His liking, so I feel everyone should look in the mirror and love the person they see.”
Regardless of what career path she might pursue, It’s clear Ohio native Maya has a bright future ahead of her and has an amazing support system rallying behind her.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Bride who developed vitiligo before her wedding: ‘I had to embrace it’
- Woman with vitiligo on self-love: ‘You have to trick out your flaws’
- This Winnie Harlow-inspired doll with vitiligo is taking over social media