Winner of America's Next Top Model in 2006, CariDee English, is using her skin condition to help others who suffer the same.
Suffering from psoriasis, the 5'10 blonde model nearly lost her career due to the unsightly autoimmune skin condition. Living with flare-ups practically her whole life, CariDee has struggled with both the emotional and physical pain it causes sufferers.
"It's a battle. Anyone who has it has their work cut out for them. You feel icky, ugly and insecure -- and ostracized, like you're the only one who has it," English tells StyleList.
Psoriasis being often a hereditary condition, CariDee attributes both her skin condition and long legs to her mom.
"My mom gave me her long legs and her psoriasis," says English. "She has a much lighter case, I'm more severe. When I was a teenager, she would try to relate to me, but I'd say, 'You just have it on your knees and elbows, I have it all over! There's no way you know what I feel like!' But she got me in to see a doctor right away because she knew it was a disease and had to be treated."
With her passion and dedication to be a model, which was an unrealistic goal for someone suffering from psoriasis - well, at least that's what her family had told her - CariDee found herself on the tv show 'America's Next Top Model'.
"It was difficult for anyone to take me seriously. My family -- God bless them -- tried to protect me by saying that I had to choose another career. But then I landed on America's Next Top Model, and I was like a horse out of the gate, finally living my dream," says English.
But it wasn't smooth sailing. CariDee suffered from a horrible outbreak which covered 70% of her body.
"It was horrible -- 70% of my skin from head to toe was covered in psoriasis, and it was the first time my hands were totally covered in it," says English. "We think the face is the first thing people see, but it's incredible how often we use our hands. You use them all the time to deal with complete strangers, like handing money over at the grocery store or meeting someone for the first time with a hand shake."
With the help of a dermatologist and psoriasis expert Dr. Paul Yamauchi in Los Angeles, CariDee was able to find a solution to help control her condition. With a prescription of Stelara injections, which are made up of proteins created in a lab, purified, and transformed into injectable form, CariDee is able to keep her flare-ups under control. Similar to the concept of diabetics who use insulin shots.
Before 'shooting up' protein, CariDee wanted to use her flare-ups to help others, so she began documenting herself fully exposed.
"I wanted to make it a source of empowerment. Before I started the new medication, I thought, 'How can I best utilize this flare-up to help other people?' I decided I would document myself fully exposed, with the hope that if a girl can see that out in the open, it can give them hope there's something concrete out there that can help them," says English.
With her skin condition and career back under control, CariDee is planning to use her experience and knowledge through advocacy and fundraising for psoriasis suffers.
"I'll always love modeling, but I now want to work on projects that make more of an impact."
For the full article about CariDee English and her psoriasis, continue here.