When reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian West first revealed she had psoriasis, I thought it would help spread awareness about the disease. But in some instances, the way she has talked about her condition has further perpetuated stigma.
When a disease decides to infiltrate and take hostage of an unsuspected body, it does not discriminate, no matter fame or fortune. Currently, I know of more than a dozen celebrities who live with psoriasis.
However, I do wonder if celebs minimize the challenges of psoriasis? As a person who is 90 percent covered with the condition without proper treatment, sometimes it is hard for me to relate to those whose conditions are not as severe. In a conversation on my Facebook page, Jennifer Pellegrin, who also lives with psoriasis, says the celebrities who come out do not represent the true struggle.
“I feel they are not relatable at all, they can get photoshopped, they can have professional makeup done to cover the spots and have treatments most of us normal patients can’t,” Pellegrin wrote. “When do we ever see a celebrity in movies or music videos with spots? NEVER.”
When Kardashian West first revealed she was living with the disease, I have to admit, I could not fully empathize. I remember when the public was stunned after seeing the episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” when Kim’s dermatologist revealed she had a “life-long chronic condition” called psoriasis. Kim went on to gripe about how the condition could become a deterrent for her modeling career. She rolled her pants leg up to show to her doctor the rash, and upon her legs encroached four red, flaky, spots of what looked like guttate psoriasis.
Raven Stevenson, who lives with psoriasis, said she, at that moment minimized the seriousness of the disease.
“I honestly felt like Kim’s diagnosis with psoriasis on the show didn’t do anything to help raise awareness,” Stevenson wrote. In my opinion, it was presented on a superficial level as something like a minor cosmetic flaw. I don’t think it was fair for those who suffer from psoriasis, especially severe cases where the individual can’t afford the treatments she can get”
Rachel Brazell, who also lives with psoriasis, shared Stevenson’s reaction, calling Kardashian West “extremely unrelatable.”
“She shows a lot of skin all the time, and I have never seen any spots on her. I feel like she is an unrealistic example of what it is like to live with psoriasis,” Brazell wrote.
Shortly after the show aired, Sherri Shepard, co-host from the ABC daytime show “The View,” referred to Kim’s condition as “just dry skin,” a misconception that is widely spread among those outside of the psoriasis community.
In contrast, the most recent celebrity in the psoriasis spotlight is Grammy, Tony, and Emmy award-winning singer, songwriter, actress, and activist Cyndi Lauper. She has opened up about her battle with psoriasis across several national platforms and has been honest and open about her journey.
The first time I ever heard a soon-to-be celebrity mention psoriasis was in 2007. It occurred on “America’s Next Top Model” Season 7 when contestant CariDee English briefly revealed she was dealing with the condition, but a new medicine had her disease controlled. She did not go into much detail, but as a young person living with the condition, I was just happy to hear the word mentioned on a national platform.
In a Facebook discussion about celebs and psoriasis, Larrell Thacker-Galloway, who does not live with psoriasis, remembered English as the first person she ever saw with the disease. “I think she was very informative and helped bring awareness when she was in the spotlight. She taught me that one, it existed, and two, you can still live life but it can be painful.”
English is also one of the only celebrities I’ve known to have severe psoriasis and flaunt it. The Top Model winner has participated in several psoriasis campaigns, where she has done photo shoots while being 80 percent covered with the condition.
Perhaps Kardashian West is shining this same light for other young women that English shined for me a decade ago.