From Oprah Magazine
Millions of Americans have psoriasis, which can cause patches of red or scaly skin to appear around the body. And because these flare-ups can occur anywhere—including the hands, legs, face, and neck, all of which can be difficult to cover—shame and embarrassment have traditionally been part and parcel of having the disease. But that’s starting to change, partly thanks to efforts by women like Angelique Miles and Joni Kazantzis, who use blogs and social media platforms to advocate for psoriasis patients and work to destigmatize the condition. We recently caught up with both of them to discover how they changed their way of thinking about psoriasis and kicked self-consciousness to the curb. Their words will resonate with anyone struggling with their confidence, regardless of the skin they’re in.
Angelique Miles, 53, New York
As a 13-year-old with psoriasis on her scalp and forehead, Angelique Miles did everything she could to hide it. At the time, there were no available medications to treat the disease. “I had bangs and I remember a girl said to me once, ‘You know you can still see it,’” Miles recalls. “It was traumatizing.”
That was the early ’80s, and there wasn’t that much doctors could do. Miles’ dermatologist at the time basically told her to try a tar shampoo on her scalp, and that was it. It wasn’t until her twenties that Miles discovered NYU’s medical center, where they had a specific division for psoriasis. She started going twice a week for UVB treatment and, through an ongoing process with her doctor—and through lots of trial and error—Miles was able to find the right medications and biologics to keep flare-ups to a minimum and better control her psoriasis.
Here’s how the former music publishing executive turned fitness influencer and health advocate rediscovered her confidence.
Love the skin you’re in
“A therapist once told me that my skin is the largest organ and I have to learn to accept and love it,” says Angelique. “That’s not to say I could still do without my psoriasis, but I now wear dresses in the summer or go to the beach. Other people can tell if you’re confident, and giving off that vibe makes them not notice your skin as much. It’s liberating.”
Be open with others
“It seems like everybody knows someone with it and celebrities are talking about it more and more,” she says, “so there’s more awareness these days.”
Feel as good physically as you can
“Fitness has always been a big part of my life and being in good shape really contributes to my confidence,” says Angelique. “I used to start every day at the gym, but recently I bought a Peloton bike and I also do some virtual training sessions and online workouts.”
Joni Kazantzis, 37, New Jersey
One morning, when Joni was 15, she woke up covered in spots. “I had no symptoms before that, but my grandmother lived with us and she had psoriasis, so she knew what it was right away,” she recalls. “I was so young and insecure at the time, so it was a struggle back then.”
Joni has continually worked with her doctor to find a medication that keeps her psoriasis mostly in check; she now injects a biologic every few weeks. She still has to work on managing triggers like stress that can cause it to reappear. The one silver lining to it all: Joni believes that being forced to grow up with psoriasis has made her stronger and more able to deal with it as an adult. Here’s her approach.
Put comfort above all else
“I make sure that whatever I wear feels good, nothing too tight or made with a synthetic material that irritates my skin,” says Joni.
Have a summer uniform
“In the summer, I live in maxi dresses,” says Joni. “They keep me cool and give me the opportunity to be covered, but I can also lift the dress up to expose my legs if I want, since the sun helps my psoriasis.”
Take the focus away from your skin
“I work in advertising and stand in front of people a lot to make presentations,” says Joni. “I make sure I have a loose cardigan or something that covers up my skin so that it doesn’t take people’s attention away from what I’m saying.”
Embrace the imperfections
“Even though I feel confident most of the time, there are still moments when I see someone looking at my skin or moving away from me and it takes me back to how I felt as a teenager,” says Joni. “In that moment, I tell myself that my psoriasis is a part of who I am. It has been around for all the major events in my life: graduating from college, getting married, and having my two daughters. It’s part of what makes me, me.”
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