Like half of the UK population, I have suffered from skin conditions throughout my life.
My eczema would present in patches across my body and as a result I suffered at the hands of bullies being called names from ‘leper’ to ‘lizard’ and people wouldn’t sit near me for fear of catching it. It had a huge impact on my self-esteem and the resulting anxiety only served to make my symptoms worse.
I remember one day when I was at Thorpe Park and a child pointed at me and said loudly to his mum “what are those things on that girls legs!” It was a hot day and for a change I didn’t want to cover up. Usually I would feel too self-conscious wearing anything that didn’t cover all of my arms and legs, even in hot weather. This is because I had psoriasis. It started in my second year of university, when a lot of things were going on in my personal life – all in a short space of time.
This put me under immense stress, which ended up showing on my skin. It started out as little patches but soon covered the entire fronts and backs of my legs and my arms. Even my friends would sometimes make jokes about my condition, which I don’t think they realised hurt me. I didn’t like to show that it bothered me, when really it was making me feel extremely self-conscious and uncomfortable. I don’t think enough people are educated on psoriasis. Some people think that you’re dirty or if they touch you they will catch it – but psoriasis is not contagious! It is an auto-immune disorder and I don’t think people realise how hurtful their stares can be.
For a long time I couldn’t look in the mirror without crying. I tried every remedy I could find on the internet. This included applying Manuka honey directly to the sores and wrapping myself in cling film, to strong steroid creams. (My skin gets easily addicted to steroid creams and in some ways this would make the psoriasis plaques worse.)
It may seem strange but when I was in my late teens, my friends and family encouraged me to enter beauty pageants and modelling competitions and to my great surprise, I found myself doing really well. But I always covered up my skin with make up or outfits to ensure that no one noticed the plaques or scarring. In modelling, I found a confidence that had been lacking throughout my childhood. Not to say it wasn’t without its own problems – so many people told me I’d never have success as a model with a skin condition. And I remember one photographer trying to be helpful saying that my plaques would be airbrushed out, but this only served to make me feel worse about myself, as though my imperfections made me less than other models.
I visited China representing Great Britain at Miss Model of the World. The choreographer said that the judges were impressed at the fact that I still rocked a bikini on stage in front of a crowd of people (and on television), despite my condition. For them, my confidence overshadowed my skin problem. For this reason, beauty pageants have helped me a lot and I was delighted to be crowned Miss Earth England 2016. I have also recently secured contracts with brands including Sony Music, Lola Rose and Dan Roberts.
I became an ambassador for the British Skin Foundation a few years ago, as I was determined to show that despite negative comments from people who don’t understand, you should never hide yourself away to make other people feel more comfortable. Since becoming a BSF ambassador, I’ve given up using heavy make up to cover up my plaques and feel much more comfortable in the skin I’m in. And I get nothing but praise for my confidence now – it’s refreshing to be able to be honest about myself and still be able to work in a field I love.
I heard about a skin study recently undertaken by Dermalex – a specialist skincare brand which shows many women with skin conditions suffer from confidence issues and depression as a result. And women are nearly three times as likely as men to feel that if they show their skin condition, they’re more likely to be judged negatively. I am passionate about not letting your skin conditions hold you back and reaching for your dreams. If I can find success in an industry that is solely based on how you look, I want to be able to help other women with skin conditions find confidence in their own lives too.
Stronger Skin #StrongerWithin*
*versus skin left untreated