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.