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Vitiligo bonds Michael Jackson and reporter Lee Thomas in more ways than one



Detroit’s WJBK Fox 2 news reporter Lee Thomas has the rare skin disease vitiligo. His face is a mottled combination of chocolate brown and nearly pearlescent, pale pink. Thomas typically wears make-up on air to limit distractions when reporting the news. But, his beauty is undeniable.

Even when reporting the most mundane story he exudes effervescence. When he first shared his struggle with Detroit area viewers on-air, it resulted in an outpouring of support. And during speaking engagements like his recent TEDx Detroit talk, he inspired and radiated positive vibes.

While Thomas may be the Detroit area’s most famous vitiligo sufferer, the world’s most famous sufferer (albeit with strong Detroit ties) is the late Michael Joseph Jackson. A rare skin disease is not the only trait Thomas and Jackson share. In the posthumously produced This Is It, Jackson inspired and radiated positive vibes.

The documentary begins with accounts of dancers and background singers sharing their lifelong dreams of performing with Michael Jackson. It progresses through approximately two hours of concert rehearsal footage. The high-energy “The Way You Make Me Feel”, the way cool “Smooth Criminal” number featuring Humphery Bogart and Rita Hayworth and his breath-taking duet with Judith Hill “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” These are highlights of the documentary produced and directed by Kenny Ortega.

But, it’s Michael Jackson. We expect to see good dancing, hear great singing and experience dazzling production. He is casually styled throughout most of the film and while not quite barefaced -- virtually. His face and hands exhibit that pearlescent, pale pink that appears to be a trademark of vitiligo. What is disarming about the film is Michael Jackson’s sheer, undeniable beauty. His absolute joie de vivre on the stage was evident even while he conserved his voice and energy during rehearsal.

It’s easy to forget about the allegations and scandals that plagued his life. It’s almost impossible to imagine the loneliness and depression that haunted him. And it’s tempting to believe that he may have experienced a much, less painful life if he’d let us in on one of his most painful secrets, vitiligo, from the outset.

Would we have given him the outpouring of support that Lee Thomas received when he went on camera without his makeup the first time? Would we have embraced him as his skin began to morph before our eyes? Would he have felt loved and supported unconditionally and not just as an outgrowth of his staggering talent? Are these questions far too simplistic?

Michael Joseph Jackson had a gorgeous gift. His music and movement lifted our spirits and warmed our hearts for over four decades. This film proves that he is gone too soon. But although he has departed, his beauty remains.

This Is It is a behind the scenes look at Michael Jackson while he developed, created and rehearsed for his concert tour scheduled to begin in London’s O2 Arena. It is now showing in theaters and IMAX. You can follow everything Michael Jackson and see what people are talking the most about on's Real-Time Michael Jackson Tracker. Find out more news about Michael Jackson here.


  • iva 5 years ago

    Your article is so beautiful. Indeed Michael is a beautiful man..i always have the same thought as you, what if he shared with the world from the beginning his vitiligo problem, would his life have became less painful and would the crazy media have lessened their tortures? i still can't believe he's gone...

  • jennifer 5 years ago

    He did share his vitiligo problem, it was a painful issue for MJ... no one believed him. It was too much fun to ridicule and humiliate this amazing man. Shame on the media and the culture liars we have become.

  • Todd 5 years ago

    I miss him. He brought me so much joy. He had his emotional issues but was completely innocent of the worst accusations. As Jennifer said... it was more "fun" to humiliate him for some people than to have empathy. Those people are low grade humans. But their simple minds caused them to miss out on so much enjoyment and love that MJ generated.

  • Jillian Searles 5 years ago

    I agree that Michael was a beautiful man inside and out. In reality though, he did tell the world he had vitiligo. Many times. Instead of embracing him though, he was ridiculed and accused of using the disease as an excuse to cover up the fact that he wanted to be white. This was utterly untrue as he was always a proud black man no matter the shade of his skin. Ironically, it was only after he died that many of those same people in the media who had openly questioned him began to take his vitiligo seriously and spoke of it as if it had always been an established fact. Unfortunately, it's too late. Due to the media's deplorable handling of Michael's brave admission, the idea that he was purposefully turning himself white has become so ingrained in our collective consciousness that all evidence to the contrary will never completely erase that false notion from so many people's minds. The fault for this lies squarely on the media and our society, not on the timing of Michael's admission.

  • susan 5 years ago

    no one believed Michael. He told the truth always. His life was a beautiful example of how one should live life - truthfully, open and strong. He was like a prophet that was mocked in his time. And now he is gone. Nothing feels right anymore.

  • Sarah 5 years ago

    So sweet. Thank you so much for this =) I hope to God the world will finally start to open their eyes and *see* him.

  • Matvey 5 years ago

    Nice work, real beauty is something that is reflected by someone's actions and influence. Well done.

  • Tonia 5 years ago

    Maybe now that the world knows that Michael Jackson had vitiligo this will shed some light on us unknown vitiligo sufferers. Now maybe when I go into the store and get change back the person won't drop it in my hand thinking that my skin disorder is contagious.

  • Christy 5 years ago

    Beautiful, Michael Jackson, beautiful, Lee Thomas. As a people we need to go deeper and remember that it's not how you look, but how you love.

  • peter 9 months ago

    I had vitiligo for 8 years now and I had tried different treatments (PUVA, topical steroid, meladinine cream/solution with exposure to sunlight/PUVA, oral meladinine, oil of bergamot). The vitiligo covered my neck, and one-fourth of my face. I looked for another dermatologist because i lost hope with my past dermatologists. Then somebody recommended me a good natural treatment and it worked very well. Now i'm 90% cured. With only 1 1/2 month of treatment. Watch this review, it helped me a lot:

  • misard 9 months ago

    Well, Misard that treatment ( is working for me! My white patches are disappearing and i only have 1 week of treatment. Thanks a lot for the advice!!!!