Can you imagine a world where we all looked the same? I love that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.
But unfortunately for some, growing up even with a slight difference can put you right in the target of bullies.
For one student who was born with over 500 birthmarks on her skin, she was cruelly labelled ‘Dalmatian’ and ‘Alien’ by her tormentors.
But Alba Parejo has defied her haters by becoming a model.
The 16-year-old from Barcelona, Spain has congenital melanocytic nevus.
It is a condition that means her entire body is covered in moles and large patches of darkened hairy skin. Alba admits that growing up she felt like a ‘monster. ‘ She was brutally bullied and shamed for her condition.
Then last year, she came to a realization. She would instead embrace her birthmarks. The teen then post pictures of her skin online, she received nearly 1,000 retweets and 1,500 likes.
With her new lease of confidence, she gained the courage to enter a competition to become the public face for an empowerment campaign.
Now Alba features on billboards, buses and in newspapers.
But when she was just five, she underwent 30 surgeries to remove some of the affected areas.
‘While growing up, I realised people were staring at me because of my skin, which made me feel bad, strangers looked at me as if I was a monster,’ Alba says.
‘Sometimes they laughed or said horrible comments like calling me a ‘Dalmatian’ or an ‘Alien’, one person even asked me if I painted myself.’
‘The worst thing I heard was someone telling me ‘don’t show your back to anyone, because no one wants a misshapen girlfriend’
‘Last year I chose to be more open about my condition and posted photos of my skin on twitter, thinking that it would only be seen by friends but I was wrong.’
‘I had people contact me from all over the world, telling me how inspirational I was and it has helped to love who I am and my skin.’
‘Since then I have won a competition to be the ‘face’ of a shopping centre and these photos have been shown in the popular places where I live.’
‘I feel very happy now, I show my disease as I love when people react positively, they think my body is ‘fantastic’ and artists adore my skin, they see it as art.’
But after support from family, friends and psychologists, she’s finally learned to love herself.
Alba said: ‘It had a terrible effect on me, I was 13-years-old and just wanted to be normal, I spent whole days crying wishing I was someone else.’
‘I was very embarrassed and ashamed to let people see my nevus and scars, because I was insecure about my body because of all the bad comments I had heard.’
‘But as time went on, I realised that my moles, scars and my nevus is a big part of me both physically and psychologically.
‘The nevus is my identity and thanks to it I have met lots of people who are fantastic and amazing.’
Alba said: ‘I realise now that my skin is beautiful, special and unique.
‘I’ve been the face of Anec Blau’s shopping centre campaign and a model for artists’ work.
‘I feel much more body positive and am trying to make my disease more well known in order to help other people.’
Now she wants to help to liberate others with the condition that affects one in 20,000 through her modelling and show them they have no reason to hide.
Alba said: ‘Since being more open about my condition I’ve spoken to people all over the world about the disease and tried to help them with their problems too.
‘I love it when people tell me I have changed their life for the better, for that reason I want to keep showing myself.
‘I want to make people accept that we are all different and we don’t have perfect bodies.’