In late 2016, the story of Ash Soto’s story and how she lives with vitiligo spread across social media. Years later, readers continue to highlight her approach to empowering people who, like her, live with the condition in which cells stop producing melanin.
A September 2019 post on the photo platform Imgur, for example, amassed more than 111,000 views while giving a brief recap:
Ash Soto was ashamed of her skin condition until she turned it into art. Diagnosed with vitiligo at age 12, she was often bullied and asked if she “showered in bleach.” One day, she traced around her vitiligo with black marker and realized it looked beautiful, like a world map, so she continues to create body art in hopes of inspiring others to love their bodies.
Soto has confirmed that account in various interviews after her Instagram account accrued a high readership online. A story about her in Latina magazine specifically recounted the taunt involving bleach:
One of her most horrifying moments came when she was 13 years old. After a pep talk from her mother, Soto gained the confidence to hop in a public pool with a two-piece bathing suit, revealing the different shades of her skin.
Exhilarated, the young Latina took to the diving board for a little water fun. But before she could jump, someone in the line behind her pointed and yelled, “did you take a shower with bleach?”
Soto was humiliated. She dived in the pool, swam to the pavement and ran to the bathroom, crying and eventually changing back into her clothes.
Soto continues to post regularly on Instagram, where she has more than 153,000 followers.