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Tattoo announces Dyker woman’s skin disorder

Making it her own: After years of torment trying to hide her rare skin condition, Dyker Heights resident Tiffany Posteraro decided to embrace vitiligo — a disease that affects the body’s ability to make pigment — and tattoo the condition’s name on her arm.
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

She wears her condition on her sleeve.

A Dyker Heights woman with a skin disorder that gives her a blotchy complexion got a tattoo announcing the name of her affliction as a way to cope with gawkers.

Tiffany Posteraro has vitiligo, an auto-immune disorder that affects the skin’s ability to make pigment. It’s neither communicable nor deadly, but people with Vitiligo are often stigmatized, so after decades of ridicule by strangers, Posteraro decided to take ownership over her condition by getting its name inked across her forearm to raise awareness, she said.

“I’ve endured some pretty nasty comments — being called ‘cow’ was always a fun one, and ‘ghost face’ because I had it on my entire face, which made it much paler — but it wasn’t until recently that I finally said, ‘I’m just going to embrace it,’ ” said Posteraro. “I got the tattoo as an open invitation for people to ask questions.”

She still suffers the occasional rude remark, but the tattoo helps her open conversations with people who might otherwise have been too polite to ask, she said.

“I get such positive reactions, and it gives me an opportunity to explain what the condition is,” Posteraro said.

Posteraro grew up in Florida, where wearing shorts and tank tops year-round exposed more of her skin to ridicule, she said. But she suffered more stares and snide remarks after she moved to Brooklyn two years ago — despite the fact that people bundle up from head to toe for half the year — because of the sheer number of people around, she said.

“In New York, I am surrounded by a lot more people than in Florida,” she said. “Taking the train used to be terrifying for me, because if I went without covering, I got twice as many stares or comments.”

But Brooklyn also helped her come to terms with her condition, she said. She ran into a woman with vitiligo at the Red Hook Ikea, and the stranger encouraged her to make her plight more public, she said.

“She was a big inspiration for me to take the next step,” Posteraro said.

The next step was a eight-inch tattoo on her forearm from 13th Avenue’s Bklyn Ink Works that announces “It’s called Vitiligo.”

After that, she joined a support group, inspiring members with how she came to terms with her condition, the group’s facilitator said.

“I think it was a really great experience for her and the members new and old to meet her,” said Nada Elbuluk, an assistant professor of Dermatology at New York University Langone Medical School who heads the institution’s bi-monthly New York Vitiligo Support Group. “They all celebrated her and felt pride in her self-acceptance.”

For more information about the New York Vitiligo Support Group, e-mail NYVitiligo@gmail.com.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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