Do you look at models and just think that they are the lucky ones who were just born perfect? Well think again! Models are just like us. Sure, they are super-duper attractive and make a lot of money for posing and wearing expensive clothes…but other than that, many fashion models could be our next-door neighbors! Case in point: these 20 Hottest Models Who Live with Chronic Diseases. Many of these people are breaking boundaries and challenging the long-held norms and beliefs that are attached to the modeling industry.
It truly is an inspiration to see these people changing the landscape of who can be a model. We have people here who have debilitating diseases, have overcome mental illnesses, and have accomplished so much for the marginalized groups of people that have just as much right to happiness as average folks. They span the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and beyond. Their presence and accomplishments range from the past and segue into the future. We can’t wait to see how the modeling scene continues to change.
If you ever thought that you couldn’t be as flawless as a supermodel, think again. The truth is that no one is flawless, and our imperfections and struggles are what make us human!
16 Christy Turlington
15 B. Smith
This Pittsburgh native was all the rage throughout her long and healthy modeling career. However, now B. Smith (also known as Barbara Elaine Smith) is dealing with Alzheimer’s. This ugly form of dementia is frightening and can leave its victims defenseless. But B. Smith has put on a brave face white she fights the illness. Alzheimer’s really sneaks up on people. It starts with just forgetting a few things here and there and before you know it, you can’t multitask and your personality starts to dwindle. But she’s been fighting all the way through. Besides modeling, she has delved into the restaurant and decorating business.
14 Rebekah Marine
Now known worldwide as the "Bionic Model," Rebekah Marine was born without a forearm. Besides working as a model, she is a motivational speaker and a philanthropist. Marine tried again and again to break into modeling, but it took years until she able to break the mold and now she is a huge force within the industry. She is outfitted with the most state-of-the-art and technologically advanced forearm, hence her super-cool nickname. Now you can find Marine on TIME, People, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, and she even graced the catwalk at New York Fashion Week. Her motto? No forearm, no problem!
13 Brunette Moffy
Strabismus is most commonly referred to as cross-eyes, and mode Brunette Moffy has been living with strabismus all her life. Rather than feel self-conscious about it, Moffy says that she “loves” her eyes and she has even been signed by an elite modeling agency, Storm Models. Cross-eyes can be caused by problems with the eye muscles and nerves, or even the brain. There are actually a number of treatment options, such as glasses or contacts, eye therapy, and even eye surgery. But it looks like Moffy is just fine with being who she naturally is, and she’s rocking it. You go, girl!
12 Alex Minsky
When Alex Minsky was serving in Afghanistan, one of his legs was totally blasted in a bomb. It had to be amputated, and he was fitted with a prosthetic. While recovering at the gym, he was discovered and catapulted into the public eye. And people have been so supportive and inspired by him. Besides being totally buff, he is so comfortable with who he is and he isn’t letting the loss of his leg take him down. The Marine/model has been photographed in his birthday suit by Michael Stokes, a Los Angeles photographer. And trust us, the world definitely noticed!
11 Jillian Mercado
The modeling industry is making huge gains. Just take a look at Jillian Mercado. Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she is really breaking the boundaries that say models need to be tall and mighty. Mercado is mighty in her own way! The model has Muscular Dystrophy and has been confined to a wheelchair since she was 12 years old. She was featured in an ad for the iconic Diesel brand and then went on to model for Nordstrom. She is moving through the ranks and is a great inspiration to people of all shapes, sizes, and bodily abilities. Screw ableism!
10 Melanie Gaydos
Ever heard of Ectodermal Dysplasia? It’s a super-rare genetic disorder in which the sufferer is left bald and never grows any adult teeth. If it sounds scary, then just take a look at Melanie Gaydos. She is a high-fashion model who hasn’t let Ectodermal Dysplasia hold her back. She is shot in a lot of other-worldly fashion photographs and isn’t afraid to just be who she is. While she is more comfortable just being without teeth, even though some have suggested she get dentures. She’s just going to flaunt what she’s got. And by the way, the 27-year-old is totally sweet and down-to-earth.
9 Diandra Forrest
Diandra Forrest is an African-American model, but she was born with Albinism, so her skin is very pale. Her extreme beauty and rare condition has catapulted her to stardom in the fashion industry. A natural blonde, people are quite taken aback when they first see Diandra. But she is determined to keep pushing for more diversity in the modeling world, and we totally support her. Only one in 17,000 people are born with Albinism, which is a genetic disorder that affects the amount of melanin in the skin, hair, and even the eyes. Diandra signed with Elite Models NY and has worked with Vivienne Westwood, MAC Cosmetics, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
8 Madeline Stuart
If you never thought we would see the day when we have a model with Down Syndrome, then take a look at Madeline Stuart and you will be so inspired by this Australian 18-year-old. Stuart is starring in her own YouTube series, as well as striving to break the stigma against Down Syndrome. People don’t choose this condition, but they don’t have to let it rule them either. Stuart has appeared in Extra Magazine and has spoken on The Today Show. She keeps her fans in the know via her blog and she is not afraid to challenge the long-held traditions of beauty.
7 Crystal Renn
Modeling since the age of 14, Crystal Renn has overcome some amazingly difficult struggles. When she first started out, she was told that she needed to lose an exorbitant amount of weight in order to become successful in modelling. She developed Anorexia, an eating disorder and mental illness in which she engaged in highly restrictive eating and over-exercise. After starving herself for years, she began to turn things around. She gained the weight back and began to portray a positive body image for not only regular women, but for other models, too. Eating disorders never fully go away; it takes therapy, a solid support system, and round-the-clock effort to keep the urges and cognitive distortions at bay. But Renn is going strong.
6 Kate Dillon
Another model who suffered from Anorexia was Kate Dillon. She overcame the restrictive lifestyle of Anorexia Nervosa and now works as a highly successful plus-size model. She was also a guest star on America’s Next Top Model, where she spoke about body image and the highly idealistic standards set by the modeling industry. She has modeled for Nine West, Marina Rinaldi, Vogue, Chanel, Dior, Glamour, Salvatore, Ferragamo, and many others. She went on to found the ECHO Prosocial Gallery, Curves for Changes, and the Komera Project. Dillon is a philanthropist for arts education and female mentoring all across the globe.
5 Georgina Wilkin
Unfortunately, many models (and average girls and women) suffer from Anorexia, and it is not rare for sufferers to die due to complications from the illness. One who survived and thrived is Georgina Wilkin. She has even spoken out about her difficulties so that others can know that people don’t choose eating disorders and they shouldn’t be highly esteemed. They are mental illnesses where you can’t even trust yourself. Body distortions and a lack of cognitive clarity create habits that slowly kill the sufferer. Georgina now speaks out and promotes body confidence and self-esteem. She continues to fight that “size-zero” stereotype.
3 Winnie Harlow
21-year-old Winnie Harlow sure looks different from a lot of models out there. That is because she has Vitiligo, a chronic skin condition in which the pigment cells in the skin either die or are unable to work properly. This causes skin that is patchy and has areas that have more melanin than others. Even so, Winnie has been able to break into modeling and she appeared on America’s Next Top Model. She didn’t win the competition, but she did make great gains for those with vitiligo and other conditions. She is now working as a successful model and spokeswoman. She even gave a TED Talk!
2 Bella Hadid
The sister of Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid has Lyme disease, just like her mother and brother. There is no set-in-stone cure or treatment for Lyme disease, which causes imbalances in the gut bacteria of the body. It is transmitted via ticks and can cause fatigue, mental fogginess, and pain in the muscles and neck. Another famous face with Lyme Disease is singer Avril Lavigne. Despite the illness, Bella is an accomplished horseback rider and model. She is signed with IMG Models and has worked with Diane von Furstenberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop, Burberry, Tom Ford, and others. Bella will most likely attend the 2016 Olympics!
1 Gia Carangi
Gia Carangi has passed away, but she was such a gorgeous and admirable model. She contracted HIV/AIDS and was just 26 years old when she died. During her short life, she accomplished much, such as appearing in Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and modeling for Versace, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, and more. For crying out loud, Angelina Jolie depicted her in a biopic! Gia is often cited as being one of the first supermodels. She was also a role model in the lesbian and bisexual communities. Even today, many up-and-coming models and seasoned veterans cite Gia as one of their fashion icons.