We live in a world that is incredibly diverse. Different cultures and languages are what makes society so unique and exciting. It’s especially exciting and refreshing when the fashion industry reflects this same reality. The Huffington Post is reporting that Seattle-based model Melanie Gaydos is hoping to contribute to this effort. If you are not familiar with Melanie Gaydos, she is a 28-year-old fashion model who was born with ectodermal dysplasia.
Ectodermal dysplasia affects the outer layer of tissue of the embryo that is responsible for making up the skin, hair, teeth, sweat glands and nails. According to the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, fewer than 200,000 people in the United States will experience this extremely rare condition. The Independent also reports that Melanie also has alopecia and is partially blind due to eyelash growth that scratched her eyes as a child.
Melanie’s version of the condition meant that she was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. It also affected the growth of her pores, nails, hair, and teeth. The Huffington Post mentions that Melanie had almost 40 surgeries when she was a child just to correct her eyes, mouth, and ears. For many, this would be very tough to deal with, but for Melanie, she explains that she found a way to cope with it: “I definitely found a way of coping with [ectodermal dysplasia] just in how I perceive and accept my body, how it looks and how it functions.”
Although Melanie found ways to deal with her condition, the Independent explains that Melanie says that she has been treated as if she was contagious or seriously ill. She mentions that at age 26, she had three dental implants and received her first set of dentures after she appeared on the reality television show The Doctors. Eight months later she removed them and never wore them again. According to the Independent, she said: “I also found I was more comfortable with myself how I am, without any enhancements. Maybe other people think I am incomplete, but that is only because they have teeth or know what that is like and cannot understand or picture what it’s like without any. I don’t miss having teeth because I never really had them to begin with.”
For more information about the condition, the Huffington Post spoke to Dr. Latanya Benjamin, medical director of pediatric dermatology at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Dr. Benjamin explains that this condition can cause those who have it to overheat in hot temperatures, so extra water, air, and shade is critical. Melanie mentions that when she was a kid, she never felt like she drank enough water. But now as an adult, she is able to manage different climates.
In regards to her modeling career, Melanie explains to the Huffington Post that modeling was never a career path she ever considered because of her condition. But she mentions that while she was studying at the Pratt Institute in New York, she experimented with being the main subject in a photograph. From there, she emailed a photographer who she followed and admired and he invited her to take some photos with him.
Since her change in career paths, Melanie says that her goal is to break into high-fashion modeling. If you are interested in her photos, she has just finished a shoot for i-D magazine’s summer issue. Melanie told the Independent that although she is fighting for change, she also warned people that although the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive, it is still a slow process. She also adds: “There are simply not enough ‘different’ people fighting to be in whatever spot or position.”
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