Before Kanye, or even her ill-advised 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries, Kim Kardashian came out as a psoriasis sufferer.
A true activist, with her 2011 admission Kim championed the plight of the 2.6 per cent of people who suffer with the non-contagious, hereditary skin condition, catapulting it into the public’s consciousness.
Psoriasis is caused when skin grows too fast. Cells pile up instead of falling away on their own, causing red marks covered in dead skin that are usually prominent on one’s elbows, knees and all over one’s fucking body.
Kim is not the only A-lister to suffer from the condition. Cara Delevingne’s illustrious modeling career was cut short after her struggle with psoriasis. Just last month, the condition took another victim: everyone’s (self-described) favourite controversial campus personality, Liam Carrigan, who cites “sectarianism in the education movement” as the trigger for his flakey elbows.
While it’s not leprosy, as Cara initially self-diagnosed, with triggers including stress, drugs, smoking and alcohol, it’s hardly ideal for the average university student (or model). A lack of knowledge about psoriasis has left many unable to ask for help. Our Cara tells the story of how Kate Moss stepped up as others shamed her from a distance.
Witnessing a makeup artist smothering Cara’s psoriasis with concealer before a Louis Vuitton show, Kate made sure Cara saw a doctor the next day. While fifth-year USyd law student Subeta Vimalarajah is not a chain-smoking British supermodel, she also managed to calm Liam’s initial concerns by sharing her history with the condition.
It wasn’t the stress of 53 runway shows over Paris Fashion Week that got Subeta, but the comparable stress of the journey to becoming dux of year six at Ermington Public School.
Years later, she had put the reality of the condition behind her when a Facebook status from Liam caught her attention: “Apparently I have psoriasis like Kim Kardashian! Fame and glamour!”
Now, whenever Subeta sees Kimmy on TV, she softly chants, “One of us, one of us.”
Liam and Subeta’s responses to the diagnosis have been notably distinct.
“I don’t really drink any alcohol and don’t smoke. I actually went substance free last year because I couldn’t deal with my psoriasis flaring up all the time,” Subeta tells Honi.
Unfortunately, Liam confesses1 he has not been as responsible. “It’s always been my motto that if you wanna have a dart, have a dart,” he says. A nicotine habit, love of dirty mimosas (goon with orange juice) and the stresses of student unionism mean he slathers himself in Daivobet2 to keep his affliction at bay.
Psoriasis most commonly develops in people aged between 15 and 35. It is basically incurable. One of the only known ways to completely treat the condition is light laser treatment, which increases one’s risk of skin cancer.
Lane Pitcher, also a sufferer,3 divulges to Honi, “Classic Lane decides to do light therapy because it’s the only way you can still drink and look hot.” The 20-year-old’s choice came after months trying various treatments, even resorting to a naturopath.
“The diet was insane, it all had to be organic and I couldn’t eat ‘night shade foods’. Then I had to do this skin regime, where I washed myself in this tar soap twice a day, including my scalp. After I got out of the shower I’d have to rub this horrific cream over myself,” she explains.
With summer looming, Lane gave in. “It was this pressure my mum instilled in me. I remember her saying to me when I was young that I had a responsibility to be presentable to a future partner,” she says. Honi understands Kris Jenner instilled a similar pressure in Kim post-Kris Humphries.
The desire to impress a future partner, or more realistically, a one night stand, also weighs heavily on Liam. “I had previously worked through the majority of my sexual and body image issues, and trust me there were a few as I was the fat gay kid in high school! Psoriasis brought them back again. I started feeling anxiety that people I was going on dates with would think I had a contagious condition. To avoid any awkwardness I’ve been turning the lights off,” he says.
As well as ointments and creams, sun exposure is recommended as a method of moderating psoriasis. For Subeta however, this posed a greater obstacle than not drinking. “I’d spend time in the sun, and then feel shit about my skin getting dark. In the battle between improving my psoriasis and white beauty norms, I went with psoriasis. As a result, I usually wear covered clothing, but I’d prefer that to a dark tan, as terrible as it sounds,” says the insecure Sri Lankan woman.
For those who have mild psoriasis, it’s often nothing more than an entertaining episode in a generally dramatic life. “For some people, this could fuck them up and upset them, but I’ve got bigger problems. Severe ADHD and fighting capitalism you know,” Liam says. The trials and tribulations of psoriasis sufferers are not on par with world hunger or the refugee crisis, but they are real, and there is no need to be scared next time you see one. After all, they might be Kim or Cara.