By Josh Saunders
A student cruelly called ‘Dalmatian’ and ‘Alien’ due to having over 500 birthmarks on her skin has defied bullies by becoming a model.
Alba Parejo, 16, has congenital melanocytic nevus a condition that means her entire body is covered in moles and large patches of darkened hairy skin.
Before the age of five, she underwent 30 surgeries to remove some of the affected areas before the trauma of treatment became too much.
While growing up, she felt like a ‘monster’ and was brutally bullied for having skin like a ‘Dalmatian’ or ‘an alien’.
But last year, after choosing to embrace her birthmarks and post pictures of her skin online she received nearly 1,000 retweets and 1,500 likes.
The positive response gave her the courage to enter a competition to become the public face for an empowerment campaign and now she is featured on billboards, buses and in newspapers.
Alba from Barcelona, Spain, said: “I have nevus on my hip, bottom, my thighs and more than 500 moles over my body.
“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.
“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.”
During her adolescence, Alba struggled to deal with the appearance of her condition and the scarring from surgeries to remove her nevus skin.
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.”
She posted about her condition last year to try to normalise how people see the skin difference and to help empower others.
After receiving positive feedback from strangers who supported her brave decision to reveal her skin, she entered a competition to celebrate body positivity and won.
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.”
Congenital Nevi form during the first 12 weeks in the womb and are caused by a defect during embryologic development.
Mark Beckwith, CEO of Nevus Outreach, said: “A congenital melanocytic nevus (CMN) is a pigmented mole present at birth.
“They are usually brown, and darker than the rest of the skin, sometimes they can be hairy, sometimes not; they can be smooth or rough; raised or flat.
“Although we know many people who have them this big, most people go through life not meeting someone who has one this big.
“They are very rare, this is why they are classified as a “rare disease” and an “orphan disease.
“We cannot say for sure how they are caused except that there is a non-hereditary genetic mutation which results in having them.
Mark says it’s people like Alba who have the courage to speak out about their condition, which helps to normalise and raise awareness for future generations.
He said: “I appreciate that young people who have grown up with a nevus and are active, dynamic outgoing people are doing what they can in their own special, and new way, using social media, to de-stigmatize our condition.”
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