Count Us In
Tatler Malaysia|September 2021
Three women from different walks of life aim to build a kinder, safer and inclusive future for all
Koyyi Chin

Before we begin, this isn’t a story where we throw around the classics like ‘beauty is skin-deep’ or ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We aren’t so much as ‘rewriting’ the narrative of conventional beauty as we are taking it apart entirely and steering it in an entirely different direction. We are going to talk about the narrative of inclusion (or its lack of ) with three women who have been through varying degrees of societal rejection just because of surface-level differences and have come out stronger for it. This is a story about the ripple of change, no matter how small, for the waves it will make in the future.

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For Rocyie Wong, who is a known psoriasis advocate that has lived with this chronic skin condition ever since she was 14, rejection was a familiar, if unwelcome, friend. “Most people don’t know how painful psoriasis is,” she says. “So it never crosses their mind at how physically challenging it is to have skin that flakes and itches all the time. I actually had to stop going to school at certain points to just recover, so while others took three years to complete their courses, I took four. I was 20 at the time.”

An ambitious soul like any other youth, Wong had landed a corporate job after graduation and dreamt of joining her peers in making their societal debut. One day, however, as she sat in her office chair, her skin burned. “While I’ve managed to make a space for myself via my platforms online like PsoGood and Safe Space, I can’t imagine the stress of those who still have to go out every day despite having psoriasis. Because it isn’t just about the physical discomfort; it’s anxiety every time you go out and the exhaustion that builds from bearing the burning sensation every time you so much as move. Some days, even though I’m way more comfortable in my own skin today, I still get anxious and have to go out wearing a cap.

“People can be unknowingly hurtful. They’d ask things like, ‘what is wrong with you’, or, ‘are you vegan or something?’ Which is just uncalled for.”

Sonya Danita Charles, a model who’s had vitiligo since the age of eight, also says as much. “The other day, while I was walking from my condo, a stranger had come up to me to ask what happened to my skin,” she recalls. “And when I told him I’ve had this condition since I was eight, he just stared at me and said, ‘I’ll get you in contact with someone who is familiar with Indian medication—you should give it a try.’”

Dumbfounded at the man’s reaction, it struck Charles that the public held an odd reluctance in accepting how she, and others with the same circumstances, have chosen to embrace it, and by extension, themselves.

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