In spite of living where the sun is always shining, Ashley Soto would be seen wearing jeans and long-sleeve t-shirts throughout her teenage years. She cancelled trips to the beach, and even had trouble looking people in the eye.
But now at 21 years old, she has a completely different outlook of herself and her appearance.
After creating an Instagram account to show off her impressive makeup skills, she then decided to reveal what she had been hiding under sweaters and pants all these years.
"I told myself I didn't have to meet society's standards to be beautiful and unique. I started challenging myself with doing things that I wouldn't do, for example: going out without a sweater or wearing shorts. I let all those negative thoughts go and just started looking at life with a positive outlook," she said.
When Ashley Soto was just 12 years old, she noticed a small spot appear on her neck. Within a year, patches appeared in other areas, eventually covering 75% of her body.
She was diagnosed with the skin condition, Vitiligo. Vitiligo occurs when cells stop producing pigment and cause patches that resemble sun spots.
It's crazy what years difference can make, right picture was before I had vitiligo - always with a smile on my face and joking around, I was super outgoing. Bottom right is when my vitiligo first started spreading and that's when the jokes started which caused me to never wear shorts or short sleeves again. I've been called cow, I even was once told I had Michael Jackson syndrome. How can an innocent girl trying to find herself take that? Both pictures on the left represent confidence, making something negative into a positive. When life gives you lemons what do you do? Make the best of it. No, I wasn't born with it, I grew into it which was the hardest thing I've ever been through. But now I look back and I'm happy that I went through it because I wouldn't be as strong as I am today 💪🏻 #selflove #vitiligo #bodypositivity 💫
"I didn't know how to react because I had no knowledge on what vitiligo was or what would happen to me," Soto told A Plus. "I remember my mom sitting there crying and I just sat there confused and scared. I didn't know how much my life would change from that moment on."
Before her diagnosis, she was a cheerleader and loved going to the beach in her Florida hometown. As vitiligo continued to spread, she started to feel self-conscious about her body.
"I've been called a cow, I even was once told I had Michael Jackson syndrome. How can an innocent girl trying to find herself take that?" she wrote in an Instagram post.
She now has turned the patches she was once ashamed of showing into beautiful works of art.
"They say your body is a canvas, I'm just painted differently," she writes.
"It's like having natural tie-dye," she posts on Instagram.
She has taken her body painting to the next level when she recreated Van Gogh's The Starry Night.
‘I never realized how beautiful my vitiligo was until I traced it with a black marker,’ she said. ‘It really helps to bring out the different colors of my skin," she said.
Each design takes her hours to paint as she outlines each patch on her skin.
"When life gives you lemons, what do you do? Make the best of it. No, I wasn't born with, I grew into it which was the hardest thing I've ever been through. But now I look back and I'm happy that I went through it because I wouldn't be as strong as I am today," she wrote.