The entertainment industry is all about image.
Your favorite Hollywood star no doubt has perfect teeth, hair and smile.
This fact hadn’t escaped Emmy Award-winning WJBK Fox 2 News reporter Lee Thomas.
After being diagnosed with vitiligo the skin condition he feared his dream of being a reporter would be over.
But after getting a boost from family and friends, he pushed himself to achieve even greater on-screen success.
The 50-year-old then vowed not to let his condition get in the way of his dreams.
Lee was only 25 years old when he first discovered a light spot of skin on his scalp.
A barber discovered the mark and thought he had nicked the young man.
It was a year after that haircut that Lee finally consulted a doctor about his now multiple patches.
By then he was working as an entertainment feature reporter for WABC in New York City.
‘The doctor told me that I had vitiligo and that my skin was going to change colors. He said there was treatment but no cure,’ Lee remembers.
‘He kept talking but I didn’t really hear much of anything else because I was in my head thinking my career was over.’
‘I was already thinking of what else I could do with my communications degree.’
But could Lee really give up and let down all the people who had helped him along the way?
Over the next few years, Lee took to covering up his skin condition with make up.
He says he suffered through many moments of doubt, but found encouragement from his family.
He credits his sister in particular who always believed in him.
Through sheer passion and determination his career kept moving forward.
Lee was soon offered the role of entertainment anchor and reporter at WJBK Fox 2 in Detroit.
In the early days he kept his condition hidden, but eventually the disease left his hands completely devoid of color.
That’s when he decided it was time to stop hiding.
‘I had to make a choice because imagine all the things that you touch in one day with your hands. And I would rather people think that I have a disease then think that I am dirty,’ he says.
‘That’s when I stopped covering up my hands.’
Although he revealed his true colors, so to speak, a decade a go, Lee still does cover the condition on his face with make-up.
But not for any reasons relating to embarrassment or shame.
‘I still wear make-up because I know that, for some people looking at me, [it] can distract them from what I’m actually saying,’ Lee explains.
‘The stories we cover are about the people that we’re talking about or writing about – it’s not about us or me.’
Although appears on the news without make-up on World Vitiligo Day every year.
Lee is now an international spokesperson for the disease. He has posed for many pictures displaying his natural looks.
The four-time Emmy winner is involved in support groups for others with vitiligo in the Detroit area.
He has inspired many with his story and in 2007 released a book, Turning White: A Memoir of Change.
He hopes that one day the condition might be so normalized that he can stop wearing make-up at work entirely.
‘Today I feel like this disease has made me the man that I always wanted to be,’ Lee says.
‘I am honorable respectful a good citizen a good father a good brother I am more compassionate and and I have more empathy than I ever thought I could have.’