Lee Thomas gives TED Talk about learning positivity through vitiligo

Lee Thomas was in the early stages of his TV career. He was working in the biggest city in the country - New York City - on their flagship station, on their top-rated 5 p.m. newscast. 

And then his skin started changing color. 

A doctor told him it was because of a disease called vitiligo. It's not contagious; it's not life-threatening - but it's also not curable. 

Years passed. He put on makeup when he went on TV, but then it started to get worse. And Lee soon realized the disease was changing him. People would react to him a certain way, so he'd react to them the same way. Sometimes it was fear, sometimes anger, sometimes it was aggressive. But he knew that wasn't him. He had to figure out a way to maintain himself. 

Lee is an inspiration to many every day, and now his story of trial and triumph is getting a new platform and a wider reach with a TED Talk.

He taped the talk earlier this summer in New York City in front of a live audience. He starts the talk in make up, and then quietly wipes it away. By doing this, he's not just revealing his skin - but also his soul. 

On his journey, there have been painful moments, days, and even weeks. Lee recalls an interaction with a child at a park - he didn't leave the house for two weeks and three days afterwards. 

From that moment and others, he learned how to accept the stares, the fears and the curiosities of others. It's taken months to capture a lifetime of transformation and translate it into this 15 minute speech. 

In some lighthearted moments afterwards, he tells us he's hoping now that his message of positivity is in an official TED Talk, his 11-year-old daughter will finally take his life motto seriously. 

"She watches the way that I react, even when we're in public. She sees people staring at me. I hope I give [the message] to her on a daily basis, but now? Someone puts it on the Ted site? Maybe she'll listen to me," he laughs. 

You can watch his TED Talk online here

You can learn more about Lee's vitiligo support group here

Lee Thomas's vitiligo support group celebrates 10 years