How a modeling career empowered one community member to stop hiding her psoriasis, and start celebrating it.
When you live with psoriasis, merely mustering up the confidence to leave the house can feel impossible at times. Imagine the mental turmoil and self-convincing it requires to step in front of a camera and strut down a runway.
While I have lived with psoriasis for much of my life, my college years were when I was most self-conscious about the visual symptoms of the condition. I was constantly preoccupied with the marks on my skin and the ever-present piles of flakes across my shoulders, but coincidentally those were also the years when I first began modeling.
I got into the world of modeling accidentally. At the time, I was seeking out on-air opportunities when a family member contacted me to say a clothing brand was looking for an on-screen personality. I applied, secured a test shoot, and shortly afterward was offered regular work with them as the face of the brand.
Overall, my experience with modeling has been positive, but there were certainly days when putting my skin on display was not so easy. I remember going to a shoot early one morning, walking into the room, and feeling immediate panic when I saw an array of skirts in varying lengths. That particular morning, no matter what I applied, nothing would conceal the patches on my legs.
I had heard horror stories of models losing contracts because the markings on their skin didn’t fit the brand’s image. I thought this was it, that they wouldn’t want me anymore. Up until then I had been able to successfully disguise my condition on shoot days and hadn’t disclosed that I had psoriasis to my team. But that day, there was no hiding it.
I walked out of the changing room, after spending far too long staring at the scaling patch just to the right of my knee, and made my way over to the photographer. In a light-hearted tone I said, “you’ll need to do a bit of photoshopping there,” pointing to the patch and laughing it off. She briefly looked down, looked back up at me and casually said, “I would have never noticed,” and carried on preparing her kit.
It was in that moment that I realized how insignificant my psoriasis really was to the outside world. While the patch on my leg was all I could think about, those around me barely noticed it. And in my experience, that has continued to be the case. My psoriasis has never been an issue, especially now that the majority of the modeling work revolves around psoriasis awareness. However, I am aware that isn’t every model’s experience.
Supermodel Cara Delevingne has done amazing things for the psoriasis community, most notably through her appearance at the 2022 Met Gala.
On the red carpet, Delevingne removed her suit jacket to reveal her body was covered entirely in gold paint, except for her psoriasis plaques, which she left uncovered. It was a bold and conscious decision that made a relevant point. Psoriasis belongs on the red carpet, and on our newsfeeds, TV screens, and magazine covers.
When I was younger, I didn’t see people like me in fashion magazines. The girls on the glossy front covers didn’t have patches dotted across their skin, in fact, their skin was flawless. Back then, it was not commonly understood that models were edited and airbrushed. I believed that to be a model, my skin would need to be flawless as well.
In the past decade, the modeling industry has seen a significant shift. A trend of increased model diversity has swept the globe. Global brands have finally started to celebrate differences and include a wider range of body types.
The fashion and modeling industries have long needed to adjust to the concept that all bodies are beautiful and to let go of outdated standards of beauty. While progress has been slow, over the years more models with visual differences have made it onto our screens, magazine covers, and catwalks — and something tells me it’s just the beginning.
My advice to anyone with psoriasis who is contemplating getting into modeling is to go for it. Times are changing and psoriasis should not be a barrier to you pursuing your interests, passions, and dreams. Be upfront and honest about your condition.
Tell the makeup artist and hairstylist on set in advance to ensure they will have products they can use that won’t irritate your skin, or that can effectively conceal the markings if needed. In my experience, your stylist is your ally. If you would rather not have your scales on display, they can accessorize and tailor your outfit.
Try to support and consume content that features models with visual differences. Allow yourself to see the beauty in being different. Be inspired by the model’s confidence and channel it into your own work.
People often ask me how I walk out under the unforgiving studio lights so confidently, knowing my psoriasis is in view. The answer is, it took time.
I’ve tried never to let my condition stop me from doing the things I wanted to, but at times having psoriasis has made me feel self-conscious, embarrassed, and has knocked my confidence. However, surrounding myself with people who proudly bare the markings on their skin has helped me reach a state of acceptance and has allowed me to embrace my visual differences.
Through modeling I have learned to celebrate the markings I once desperately tried to hide, and through my work, I hope to encourage others living with this condition to do the same.
Fact checked on November 22, 2022
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