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How America’s next top model beat the odds

CariDee English, from North Dakota, won America’s Next Top Model – and a victory over the debilitating psoriasis she has fought almost her entire life.

English won a $100,000 contract with CoverGirl Cosmetics, a modelling contract with Elite, and extensive editorial in Seventeen magazine. But she remembers how difficult life was getting up to that point.

“I have had psoriasis since I was a child – I remember first seeing it at age five,” CariDee, now 26, recalls. “The psychological effects of having psoriasis to me were more severe then the actual physical condition. Psoriasis attacks the largest organ on my body, my skin. It’s what people will notice first. Having to wear long sleeves for 15 years som people wouldn’t stare at me was miserable – and if I wore something that made my psoriasis visible, I was just as miserable.”

The Impact of Psoriasis

Psoriasis affects about two per cent of the population of the UK, according to the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD). “It’s really important not to dismiss it as a ‘simple rash’,” points out Nina Boad of BAD. “Psoriasis can have a significant impact on your quality of life – one study found that over 30 per cent of patients experienced depressed mood and increased anxiety.”

“The way people stare, and are scared of you, is so miserable: I just wanted to enjoy my youth and my freedom,” remembers CariDee, “but I felt imprisoned with psoriasis – I let it rule a large part of my life.”

Achieving dreams

At 20, CariDee had had enough: “I decided to do whatever it takes to get it under control so I could get on with my life and live my dreams. Psoriasis ruled my childhood but it was not going to control my dreams of becoming a model, I decided.

“Not everyone shared her conviction. “Psoriasis made everyone certain that I would never model, that I would never be able to be what I wanted most. No one believed in me and agencies would turn me down – it seemed impossible to everyone but me. I always knew inside that I was going to be great even when everyone told me to do something else.”

At the height of her career, CariDee had to stop modelling because the medication she was taking was unsafe. “But I knew that if I stayed in constant communication with my dermatologists and kept educated on new treatment options I would find something that would work for me,” she says. Making the most of her time off, she decided to get started on another dream – music. “The time off in front of the camera allowed me to sit down and study music, get better at playing the drums, piano,
guitar and start writing my own music.

I also wanted to take pictures of my skin to show the world and myself my disease – and hopefully inspire others to chase after their dreams, no matter the circumstances. I wanted to show people beauty is in the eye of the beholder – that truly, no one is perfect.”

Educating people about Psoriasis

It is vital to educate those around you about psoriasis, advises Nina Boad: “A simple explanation will often turn their misconceptions into support, and make sure they know that it is not infectious.”

“I am blessed to have my disease so I can show others that they are not alone, and also to inspire them to say – ‘I have psoriasis but psoriasis doesn’t have me,” says CariDee. “It goes to show you really must be your own cheerleader when it comes to chasing dreams – if you know in your heart you can make anything happen, the impossible becomes possible. No matter what your dream is, I want to inspire everyone with psoriasis to go out there and be brave in your own skin. You might never be comfortable, this I know – but you can be brave, and you can make the impossible possible. It’s up to you.”

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