#KetchupTalks: Riya Agarwal’s ‘Thick Skin’ aims to inspire more dialogue about Vitiligo

Smrithi Mohan
Updated On
New Update
Riya Agarwal

“Thick Skin is a journey of identity, resilience, and self-acceptance,” writes Riya Agarwal, about her 3-part short film.

Media is often portrayed as a mirror reflecting our society’s values, yet all we are often presented with are individuals who conform to an idealized image. The lack of relatable faces is why we feel a surge of excitement when we finally see someone who looks like us in mainstream media. Having people who encourage the audience to talk about and create awareness on topics that are considered taboo is important. Riya Agarwal, a content creator with Vitiligo, uses her platform to discuss and break myths around Vitiligo.

In an attempt to celebrate diversity and inspire awareness about Vitiligo, Riya Agarwal released a 3-part short film on her Instagram titled ‘Thick Skin’. The film explores a flip narrative, challenging the common belief that society is the main source of judgment for those with Vitiligo. Instead, it delves into the internal struggles and the impact of opinions from those closest to us like family and friends. Often, the real battle is with our own confidence, influenced by the people around us. Riya spoke to us about the film, highlighting that the perceptions we fear might not be as prevalent as we think.

Also Read - #KetchupTalks: Enjoying a successful streak so far, Nancy Tyagi discussed her dreams, learnings and more

Here’s what she had to say!

How do you think society perceives Vitiligo, and has this perception changed over time?

Vitiligo is not a new notion. It has been there for decades. The reason why there are so many misconceptions and myths is because there's a lack of awareness. There were not many scientific researchers or doctors who could speak about the condition and talk about the facts of this condition. And with proper research, people understood that it’s just a skin condition that only affects the outer appearance. 

There are a lot of misconceptions that people get Vitiligo from having fish milk, eating certain white-colored items, or even touching the other person who has it. All of this is because of a lack of awareness. And I'm trying to bring out the facts by connecting with the right dermatologists who have researched and studied about this. I'm actively in touch with them so that I can bring out that information to people on Instagram. The information I share is already present on the internet but because there are so many myths, people are more inclined towards believing in those rather than researching about the facts. I'm just trying to make this process easy for them by giving them the information as casually as possible.

What role does media representation play in shaping the public perception of Vitiligo?

I think we've always looked up to people who we see on big screens or TV. We relate to stuff that maybe they are doing or in a way promoting. So, having representation in media is very important. Inclusivity is very important because if you see more faces that look like you, you'll automatically believe it's normal. It is as simple as discovering something new, like say for example a new flavour of Lays. If that Lays product is promoted on our social media or TV, we get used to it. So, representation plays a very important role because people, again, aspire and get inspired by what they see on the media.

Can you about your short film? 

Every World Vitiligo Day, I try to do something on my Instagram apart from the content I generally share. In the past, I've done spoken poetry and shared pictures that represent Vitiligo. Since I wanted to do a short film for a very long time I decided to do that to spread awareness about Vitiligo this year. The film is called ‘Thick Skin’, the essential part of the film takes up to two days. It is like a flip narrative where we're trying to show how ingrained thoughts affect people. The film follows this girl who's very confident and very inspiring to the world but is affected by the comments about the spots she has. It all comes down to the thought that we should make a safe space at home for the person so that they wouldn't be bothered by others. It focused on showing people that the world is not judging you if you do not judge yourself. 

You have planned on releasing this film in three parts, each only one minute long; what made you want to go for a short video rather than sharing it as a longer format?

I think short-form platforms spread the message beautifully in fewer words and in a crisp manner. Given the attention span that people have, not everybody will take the effort to go on a long-form platform, search, and then consume content. But short-form platforms have that edge where you can spread the message in a heartfelt way that requires very few words and time. I think that's the case even with me. But topics like skin positivity are important and might not be talked about that much so if I find a way to reach out to more and more people who might accidentally see the video and give it a thought, there's nothing better than that. 

There are many creators who use their platform to spread awareness and share their stories. Do they inspire you to do the same?

My biggest inspiration is Vinnie Harlow, a Canadian model. I started to go public only after seeing her pictures. But if we are talking about creators, there are a lot of creators outside India. There is this girl named Jasroop Singh who is based out of London, UK. She does an amazing job at representation and bringing inclusivity to modeling. There's Aastha too, who's like a really good friend of mine, and we've talked about raising awareness together several times. Anmol Arora, too, is doing it through her poetry and words. There are more creators in India as well, who are not just talking about Vitiligo specifically but also body positivity and skin positivity.

What would you want to tell our readers?

I would just want to say that let's not put anyone in a box. We're more than that. And if you ever come across somebody who has Vitiligo or any other skin condition, I would just want people to approach them in a very nice manner. People do not get offended by questions but by the tone used. So it would be great if people could just try not make any assumptions before talking to them. Try to be open about it! Try learning about things! It will make this world a better place.

Watch the entire film here!

Liked what Riya had to say? Follow her on Instagram for more.

For more such stories, follow us on @socialketchup

vitiligo awareness creators rhea agarwal Ketchup Talks thick skin short film