When she was growing up, other people made Alba Parejo feel like a monster. Indeed, bullies cruelly targeted her because of the many moles and birthmarks that cover her entire body. But after years of feeling worthless, she’s now learning to love herself – and her unique appearance has even led her on to big things.
Parejo has had some time to get used to how she looks, however, as she’s had marked skin since she was a baby. Back then, the Spanish native was diagnosed with congenital melanocytic nevus, with “nevus” being the medical term for a skin lesion. And how the condition affects people depends on its severity; Parejo, for example, has over 500 large moles and birthmarks across her face and body, making hers a relatively extreme example.
Consequently, before she reached five years old, Parejo was constantly in and out of hospital. In fact, she had a total of 30 operations on the areas affected by congenital melanocytic nevus. The stress of the surgeries eventually became too much for the youngster from Barcelona, though, and so her treatment was curtailed.
Congenital melanocytic nevus itself, meanwhile, begins to establish itself in the first three months of pregnancy. Specifically, it creates distinctly colored patches of skin and is prompted by cell mutation that occurs when an embryo is developing in the womb. However, as Mark Beckwith, CEO of non-profit organization Nevus Outreach, would tell the Daily Mail in March 2017, the disease is nevertheless “very rare.”
Unfortunately, when she was growing up, the skin condition left Parejo with low self-esteem. And not only was she battling with her birthmarks, but the surgeries had also left her scarred. As a result, she would later admit that her looks were hard to deal with as a teen.
“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,” she told the Daily Mail in March 2017. “I was very embarrassed and ashamed to let people see my nevus and scars because I was insecure about my body.”
And the fact that she faced cruel taunts from others didn’t help. Indeed, some people were even quick to call Parejo nasty names, just because she looked different to everyone else. Inevitably, the bullying was crushing for the young woman.
“While growing up, I realized people were staring at me because of my skin, which made me feel bad. Strangers looked at me as if I was a monster,” Parejo elaborated to the Daily Mail. “Sometimes they laughed or said horrible comments, like calling me a “Dalmatian” or an “alien.” One person even asked me if I painted myself.”
What’s more, the jibes continued as she got older. Someone even told Parejo that her skin would prevent her from finding love. “The worst thing I heard was someone telling me, ‘Don’t show your back to anyone, because no one wants a misshapen girlfriend,’” she revealed to the Daily Mail.
Sadly, Parejo endured this teasing until she was 15 years old. At that point, however, something inside her just seemed to click, Instead, she decided that there was no reason for her to be ashamed of how she looked – and she finally began to embrace her uniqueness.
The teenager then went on to post pictures of herself online. And, perhaps to her surprise, she soon amassed a sizeable following on her social media sites. “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,” Parejo explained to the Daily Mail.
Once again, Parejo found herself the subject of people’s comments. However, this time most only had kind words to share. And the teenager may have found all the positive responses she was getting rather empowering, given what she did next.
That’s because the teen who was once mocked for her looks made the brave decision to enter a modeling competition. The prize was to become the new face of a positive body image ad campaign – and, amazingly, Parejo won. Now her image has been splashed across billboards, papers and public transport all over Spain.
Today, then, Parejo is forging a career as a model. And she’s seemingly making a success of it, too. “I’ve been the face of [Barcelona-based] Anec Blau’s shopping center campaign and a model for artists’ work,” the teen revealed to the Daily Mail. “I realize now that my skin is beautiful, special and unique,” she added.
Furthermore, Parejo decided to use the attention she was getting to help others who have faced similar struggles. Through Instagram hashtags like “#bareyourbirthmark,” for example, the model aims to inspire more people out there to love their unique characteristics. Perhaps, then, she’s led some of her nearly 3,000 Instagram followers to accept their differences and be proud of who they are as a consequence.
And the 16-year-old walks the walk, too, by baring her own birthmarks on the social media site. Fortunately, the images she posts there receive a positive reception on the whole; many, in fact, have hundreds of likes from Instagram users.
“[I’m] trying to make my disease more well known in order to help other people,” Parejo has explained to the Daily Mail. What’s more, the teenager has also used her platform to reach out to other congenital melanocytic nevus sufferers. “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,” she added to the newspaper.
And she’s already heard from people who’ve found her story inspirational. “I love it when people tell me I have changed their life for the better. For that reason, I want to keep showing myself,” she continued. “I want to make people accept that we are all different and we don’t have perfect bodies.”
On her Instagram page, meanwhile, the encouraging comments just keep flooding in. “Awesome Alba,” wrote one user on a post made in March 2017. “You are going to be a great source of hope for my daughter. Here’s wishing you the best!”
And perhaps we could all learn something for Parejo’s inspirational spirit. Indeed, if we could all accept our own, and each other’s, uniqueness, the world would no doubt be a better place. After all, as Parejo has proved, it’s beautiful to be different.