Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Darcel, Trinidad and Tobago


“When I had to gear up to go to court to fight for my daughter, I saw my pack. My family, my parents, my friends. I saw the lions in my pack. That’s when I saw my personal struggle and the fallout of my own personal decisions, where I saw that this is a tribe it’s going to hold you up. You really learn who are your friends throughout something like that. ”

Darcel's Story

By Ashlee Cox
Darcel is advocating for a more accepting world for those with vitiligo

Trinidadian –born Darcel who has had the skin condition vitiligo from the age of 5 is using her own story of resistance and acceptance to help others who are struggling with it.

Although Darcel was born in Trinidad, she told the Girls Narrative Project in an exclusive interview, that she was only 3 years old when her family- mother and an older brother- left the tropical island, and headed to Israel to join her father, who was on mission for the United Nations.

She revealed that her family continued to travel with her father until they eventually settled on the Greek island of Cyprus, where Darcel spent the rest of her childhood, only visiting Trinidad on vacation trips to meet the rest of her relatives.

“I left Trinidad when I was three and went over to Israel to join my dad. He was in the United Nations, so I went over to join him there. We stayed there for a few months and then we moved over to Syria for a year and a bit. After, when they told my dad he would keep moving around on missions he kind of scouted around for a safe place for us to stay that he could get to quickly and Cyprus was it. So really that’s my childhood home. I stayed there from when I was five until when I was eighteen,” she said.

Reminiscing on what it was like as a young girl with this specific skin condition where white patches develop on the skin, and living in Cyprus, she told the Girls Narrative Project that at the time, she was very lucky to have had the great support system she did.

“What could have been much more traumatic than it was, thankfully wasn’t,” she said.

“I lived in a small community with a very close bubble of people and they sort of saw my gradual journey, so in terms of that, I got a really good foundation of confidence and protection. I mean there was still your little bullying and your little commentary and whatever, but it wasn’t like, for example in a metropolitan city being around strangers every day where every day somebody would have something to say; so that was a nice safety bubble for me to grow in what was happening with me with my skin,” she explained.

It was during her childhood, that she became aware of how different she was  from others based on the comments and the way people would stare at her however, thanks to her mother, she found a way to not only educate others, but to help empower herself as well.

“My mom taught me how to reach out to people, ‘you see someone staring, go up to them and say ‘hey, I saw you looking at my skin. Would you like me to explain what it is?’ That has obviously given me skills going into adulthood,” she revealed.

While she was more open to talking to others about what was happening with her skin, Darcel lamented that there were pros and cons to growing up with the skin condition, as it pushed her to learn things at a faster rate than those her age, meaning that she then thought about things in a different way to her peers. This she confided made her feel as if she missed out on some of the ‘rites of passages’ that children and teens go through.

Speaking on one such matter, she revealed that some of her hardest times in her life were preteen into adolescence, because while everyone else was navigating young love, she found solace in her academia because of her skin and how others saw her.

“Watching everybody else go through the motions of being a teenager and knowing that I wasn’t getting to experience that. Things like, yes, your hormones kick in and boys and girls start to like each other, and people are dating and – oooh, he likes me. It sounds very petty and whatever but being in high school and your experience is not that because you’re not – the way you look and whatever, is completely different so you’re more about the books and everybody else is experiencing that, because I didn’t get to experience dating and stuff until I reached my twenties at University,” she said.

Giving an example of what it was like in her school, around that time she spoke of a girl she had the most conflict with, who so happened to be close to her group of friends as well, but at one point, even called her ‘ugly’.

“She used to say things about my skin; she told me once that I was ugly. And I just remember it just brought my whole world down. Not because of what she said, but because when she said it everybody else stood there and said nothing. And that really broke my heart, because I think as Martin Luther King says, it’s the silence of your friends that you remember, and that one really, really hurt. So we had a lot of conflicts, but I would just kind of shy away and do my own thing,” she said.

While those teen friends may have remained silent when she went through that event in her life, conversely, when she was fighting for custody of her child in Trinidad, her family and her close friends all came out to support her.

“When I had to gear up to go to court to fight for my daughter I saw my pack. My family, my parents, my friends. I saw the lions in my pack. That’s when I saw my personal struggle and the fallout of my own personal decisions, where I saw that this is a tribe- it’s going to hold you up. You really learn who are your friends throughout something like that. Not even just going to court but going through a breakup and becoming a single mom. You do learn who your friends are throughout that,” she said.

For this fiery and determined single mom, it is important for her to stand up for what she believes in, because she will never sit back and let something happen, when she knew she could do something about it.

This determination stems from her own journey with her skin condition, the way her parents raised her as well, as living in war-zones when she was younger, which she said really put a lot of things into perspective.

“I lived in war zones, so I remember things like curfews, I remember having helicopters flying, I remember things like lights shining in our houses at night, being ready to evacuate at any minute if we had to. My childhood was a little different in that regard because we were in Syria at the end of the Gulf War. In that regard, big moments like, well in the beginning because we had become so used to this way of life , but things like my dad calling and saying, we might not hear from him for a few days because they’re going on lock down” she recalled.

Continuing, she explained how her Dad’s world view also helped her in her own life journey, saying that because of his experiences with the United Nations, and seeing behind the curtain, when he came home, their conversations would be a ‘ reality check’.

“My dad, whenever he would come home the conversations we would have would be a reality check. Always a reminder that there is so much going on that we don’t know about and there are people who are fighting for us that we don’t know about and who are fighting for the rights and the injustices that go on. My dad is definitely one of my biggest influences,” she said.

At the time of this interview, Darcel who was still living in Trinidad with her very creative young daughter, said there were people with vitiligo who messaged her online seeking her advice on how to help their families understand what they are going through.

“One specific thing I can think of is a girl whose family was pushing her to take medication and she didn’t feel like she needed to. We kind of did a little sort of therapy session where I would like, it’s your body and it’s your decision and your choice. And then you get a message from these people months or a year later and they say thank you so much for helping with this. My relationship with my mom is so much better because she understands this and this and that. I like to think that I helped you stand up for yourself,” she said.

It is Darcel’s belief that if people recognized their God-given power and became more supportive and understanding of each other, the world could massively change for the greater.

Artist Description

This image of Darcel was created by Elizabeth Barrera, who explains their thoughts behind the illustration: Darcel has vitiligo and was bullied in school for her skin condition. She loves ballet and I wanted to represent a ballerina with vitiligo: a ballerina seems delicate in her movement, but she has the inner strength to continue dancing.