Crown The Brown: Joti Gata-Aura
Crown The Brown: Joti Gata-Aura – Positively Diverse Representation. A world filled with the influence of media can either bring people together or cause a divide but this insanely motivational creator has surely found a way to bring others together.
The founder of the platform @positivelydiverse , Joti Gata – Aura has used her platform to embrace beauty on a global scale. Her platform focuses on dismantling the media’s idea of beauty standards and showcasing beauty in the most natural form! We wanted to know more about her incredible work in dismantling the eurocentric beauty standards and her journey towards inclusion.
Who is Joti? How would you describe yourself to others? Tell us a bit more about you.
My name is Joti Gata-Aura I am 42 years old and I work in presenting in London. I am all about championing people with visible differences so they can be better represented in the media. That is why I am here today, I am a presenter here to face/be the voice or people like me to be seen, heard and understood and more importantly, be represented more positively in the media.
I run a business called Positively Diverse, you’ll find me on Instagram @positivelydiverse and on there you will see we have hit on some tough deep issues. Today I would love to share my journey with you on what it has been like to live with a visible skin condition called Vitiligo.
I would also like to add that I also work as a secondary school teacher part time and will be moving full time to presenting so that I can pursue my love of spreading body positivity. I hope my story can help, support and allow others to know that if they are struggling out there with their bodies then believe in the power of hope and positivity because this is what happened to me.
You’ve always advocated towards body positivity and diversity. You have had quite the journey and shared your life story regarding life with vitiligo. What is vitiligo and tell us a bit more about your journey living with vitiligo?
In 1999, just before I was due to fly back from a University year abroad in Spain, I noticed a tiny white spot on the back of my arm. While I didn’t think anything of it at first, the spot started to get bigger and panic set in. After three months, I went to the doctors and was diagnosed with vitiligo which began to spread aggressively.
Vitiligo is a skin condition that affects 1-2% of the world’s population. Vitiligo is caused by the lack of a pigment called melanin in the skin. Melanin is produced by skin cells called melanocytes, and it gives your skin its colour. In vitiligo, there are not enough working melanocytes to produce enough melanin in your skin. This causes white patches to develop on your skin or hair. The doctors were quite brutal with their advice, they told me there were some treatments but there was “nothing they could do to cure it”.
I had always been a confident, outgoing person but at that point I caved in. Being in absolute depression and the more it started to spread, the more I felt like I couldn’t control it. Trying all the treatments I could think of, from herbal remedies to avoiding certain products. I covered up my white patches with theatrical makeup for years from top to bottom. I was partly ashamed but I also thought maybe if there’s a cure, it will go and then I won’t have to tell anyone about this – I thought it would be easier if I just covered up.
Vitiligo had spread from my arm to my eyes, legs and feet, and every time I found a new spot of white skin, it grew bigger.
I was a girl who loved her fashion and I loved my sense of style an dress and I really felt deflated when I had this condition as I could no longer wear the clothes I wanted to.
At aged 21,I graduated from University in 2001, got a job in banking and got married, but as I hit new life milestones, one thing remained constant – the need to cover up, whether that was by wearing long-sleeved work tops in the height of summer or camouflaging my feet with makeup. Vitiligo stripped away my confidence, my personality, my Indian cultural identity.
It was time consuming covering up and going to appointments – whenever there was an event like a wedding or a party, I knew I’d have to spend weeks looking for an outfit that looked nice with long sleeves, even in the middle of summer.
I then started a “horrendous” course of steroid injections which gave me the results I wanted, but I had to stop when I became pregnant with my daughter.
I should have been grateful to be pregnant but I wasn’t because I was like ‘Damn, this is coming in between my treatment, and I’m nearly fixed, I’m nearly brown again”.
After the birth of her daughter, my vitiligo spread again, and as I woke up exhausted for night feeds, I realised I no longer had the energy to spend on covering up my skin.
I had another mental barrier to overcome, which was the fact I’d hidden it for so long. The only people who’d seen my skin as it truly was were my husband, mum, sister, in-laws and a few of my best friends. Seeing wider friends and family, neighbors and colleagues uncovered was massive, massive barrier.
Your journey inspired many, especially towards the idea of a more inclusive Barbie. Your work inspired a diverse force towards branding and this brought about a Barbie doll with vitiligo. Why is it so important to have that kind of diversity for young kids?
I am a parent to my children who are 10 and 8. At this tender age children now more than can become more vulnerable than ever and I feel that it is incredibly important that we raise our children to be empathetic to other people’s differences and create strong and confident children.
I have also worked as a secondary school teacher for 15 years and seen how vulnerable our young people are. They are continuously comparing themselves to the likes of models that is defined as beautiful and in the media and have flawless skin and bodies.
Are these images real? These images make me cross as they make our young people become more insecure about themselves.
Positively diverse. A campaign you started with your own social media platform. What inspired branching out into this? What is the campaign about?
I now run a business called Positively Diverse; championing better representation in the media for those with visible differences and disabilities. I want to help the next generation celebrate their individuality and accept their differences. To come together in their similarities.
To create a positively diverse and more inclusive society. I’m all about building community and confidence in people like me, who need to be seen and heard. Taking the hard work out of getting involved. Kick starting down-to-earth conversation. Role modelling better representation in the media.
You’ve also recently been a part of London Fashion week. Congratulations! What was the experience like and what do you think the industry can do to become more inclusive?
Ever since I was a young girl, I never saw Indian models like myself and when I was diagnosed with Vitiligo at the age of 21 I didn’t think I was beautiful and would ever take part in London fashion week. Why me? Someone who is 5ft 2, with Vitiligo and imperfections? However, the world is changing and there are so many representatives who are manifesting towards a better represented society which is more inclusive and diverse. I feel extremely fortunate to have taken part in this campaign as it allowed me to work with a range of other diverse models to bring to the forefront the great importance that should be placed with more diversity in the fashion industry.
As a POC, what challenges have you experienced in the beauty industry that you’d like to change with your platform?
My message for the beauty industry is that I would love to see more diverse representation in society. I feel so happy that I am surrounded by so many other wonderful skin and body ambassadors out there who are working hard to spread the same message as I am. I hope this inspires anyone out there to know they are not alone. To remember that hope does exist and to hang on to it. My page support and discusses all topics that fall under the subject of representation and this is what Positively Diverse represents.
What future projects do you have coming up?
I have some exciting collaborations that I can’t wait to share. One being with a presenter who interview Jessie from Little Mix and some other informative and education collaborations with some IG influencers so do please stay tuned!
What advice do you have for others that might be struggling with their identity or self-esteem because of Eurocentric beauty standards?
I truly believe that we should all be confident and comfortable in our own skin. We are each unique and different. We should be able to embrace this in a world where people should be free in their own skin. If anyone is struggling, please reach out. I provide a range of support on my page and can guide people in the right direction. I also always suggest to people to reach out to friends and family so that no one is alone.
Communication is so important when faced with a life changing situation so reach out for support. Social media has its cons but equally is a great place to meet people. Especially those who are advocates for many other body confidence issues. You are not alone, never feel like you are and reach out for help.
Joti Gata-Aura is one inspiring young lady with a passion for change. Her love for others and wanting change has truly influenced many around her, as well as ourselves. We have been communicating with her for quite some time and it is amazing to witness the growth.
We love seeing her grow and watch her journey from creating more inclusion in the beauty industry to embracing others globally and sharing their stories. Be sure to follow her journey @positivelydiverse.