I was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a complex craniofacial condition that causes facial malformations. For a long time, I felt trapped by my struggles, but now, I use my voice to help others. As a craniofacial awareness advocate, I do my best to spread hope and share what I have learned.

I’ve learned to confront people with kindness, whether it’s smiling back, or even drawing up a conversation. You can’t possibly know between judgment and curiosity. A facial expression can deliver a million different reasons why another person is observing your beauty.  You must create and maintain the belief that you are beautiful to wholeheartedly accept the way you were born.

I want you to know that God made you beautiful just the way you are. You have talents, and by failing to recognize and honor them, you may be missing out on grand life opportunities. You are BEAUTIFUL, you are KIND, you are SMART, and you are WORTHY. My goal is to bring more of us together and to not be hidden behind the scenes anymore.

I’ve learned how to embrace my face. I used to feel ugly and stupid, but now I revel in my educational studies, and I go out with my hair up in public, with my little ears exposed. I don’t plaster my face with makeup or go out hiding who I am, and I no longer find friendships for love or acceptance. It feels exhilarating to just be me.

I’ve failed many classes, and I’ve dropped out of school and college. I picked myself back up, and now I’m pursuing my second master’s degree in Public Health. I found the love of my life, and now we’ve been married for 13 years. I was laughed out of an audition stadium in Los Angeles for America’s Next Top Model, and ten years later I went back to the fashion industry and found amazingly accepting people who view me as a role model, literally and figuratively.