Psoriasis Insights

CariDee English: Psoriasis Nearly Ruined My Modeling Career

CariDee English, age 25, won America's Next Top Model in 2006—but it wasn't easy. In addition to meeting the challenges of the reality show, English struggled to hide her psoriasis, which at one point in her life covered 70% of her body. View before-and-after pictures of her flare-up. Here she shares intimate details about how psoriasis almost derailed her modeling career, why it still haunts her, and how she fought back. English is now the host of the reality show Pretty Wicked.

I was 5 years old when I looked down at my legs and saw a couple of red spots. "Mom, what's this?" I asked. To this day, I remember the look on her face. It was almost like heartbreak. She knew exactly what it was because she had it, too.

Psoriasis is a hereditary condition that causes the skin to form red, scaly patches called plaques. My mom only had it on her knees and elbows, but by the time I was 12, plaques covered 70% of my body. Ointments relieved the itching and inflammation only temporarily. To hide it, I avoided short-sleeve shirts, skirts, and shorts. I wore nylons to public pools. But even then a lifeguard once kicked me out.

In spite of my disease, I always dreamed of being a model. I loved being able to be something beautiful, to escape into someone you're not. At 17, I joined a modeling agency, hiding my psoriasis behind layers and layers of makeup all over my body. But during one photo shoot by the ocean, the makeup washed off. The agency fired me. When I got the call, I went into a closet for some privacy from my roommates, fell to my knees, and started bawling. For a second, I thought maybe modeling wasn't what I should be doing. But something in me knew this was still my path.

There were days I hated my psoriasis. Then my boyfriend Nick changed my perspective. One night when I was having a hard time, he kissed all of my plaques. I was like, "Ew, what are you doing? That's gross!" But he didn't see it that way. He said, "Because I love it. It makes you you." That was my biggest fear in showing anyone my psoriasis: that they wouldn't accept me. And he just said, "Look, it's you." He helped me embrace it.

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As told to Judy Dutton
Last Updated: December 02, 2010

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