Maya Angelou is an American poet, who wrote, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” The woman we introduce today is the living embodiment of this sentence and her name is Jeyza Gary who happens to suffer from a birth condition that happens to be quite rare. This rare medical condition is of skin which causes her to shed the skin of her entire body after about every 2 weeks. She has suffered from it for her whole life but she has also been tackling this problem of her with proud. In an effort to fight her condition, Jeyza actually became the model nearly 2 years ago and since then has been featured in the Vogue Italia.
Jeyza told the interviewers in one on one interview that, “I was born with a disease named Lamellar Ithcyosis. This is a rare skin condition that only affects one person out of every 100000. To me, it caused due to my parents having the abnormal chromosomes. When I was born, I was covered with a Colloidal Membrane which appears in the form of a Saran wrap which is slick. This caused my skin, especially around my face to be really tight and super shiny. At first, the doctors at the hospital did not know what was actually wrong with me so they kept me in hospital for several weeks under the heat of a lamp in a NICU. After I was a few months old, my grandmother took me over to see a doctor who then recommended to her sending me to the Duke University where I was finally diagnosed.”
Jeyza said, “The first time I happened to realize that I was really special was when I saw how protective my family was for me. When we would go out in the public, people would start staring at me. I remember that it really bothered my mother. She would say to those people, ‘it’s not polite to stare. Just feel free for asking us but do not stare at her. Sometimes she would also ask the parents to simply ask about me because the children often do what their parents do.”
On the very first day of the school, Jeyza’s mom came to her school and educated the entire school staff and the children about Jeyza’s skin condition. Jeyza said, “She would come to my class and then would make me stand right beside her with my 2 afro puffs and then start saying, ‘this is my daughter, her name is Jeyza and she has a special skin condition. How many of you guys have seen a snake or a lizard? Jeyza’s skin is very much like them. After every 10 to 12 days, it would start to shed. This is not a contagious condition and she is like everyone else.”
Jeyza’s mom was not only teaching others but also her own daughter. Jeyza says, “Hearing my mother say that over and over again at the start of every school year would reaffirm it in my mind that I was like anybody else around me. My mother made sure that I never felt like I was separate. If I would start shedding sin from my forehead, she would tie a bandana over my forehead so that I can go to school. If my brother went to school wearing shorts, then she would also have me wear shorts.”
Jeyza says, “Before I even knew how to advocate for myself, my mom was my biggest advocate in the whole world. Despite, I had extensive notes of doctors regarding my special condition, teachers would not glance at those notes or even showed any care in reading them. I needed to have certain accommodations due to my condition. I do not sweat which prompts me to not go outside when it was particularly a hot day. At all ties, I needed to have the items like an umbrella, a water bottle and a bottle of Aquaphor or Vaseline. While I was growing up, I had to remain indoors instead of playing outside because my skin had an extra layer which keeps me constricted and also does not let the body release heat.”
Talking about her High School Days, Jeyza said, “When I was in the high school period, I wore a lot of makeup. I use the makeup as a means to fit in with the normal people and also to cover for the things that caused me to stand out in public. I would make eyebrows with makeup because I did not have any. I would always wear mascara or eyeshadow and something on the lips as well. At that time, I was not aware that it was OK to not be able to fit in completely.”
One day, I did not wear any makeup and I saw myself and said, ‘Who is this person?’ I started to feel that I relied on makeup too uh so I stopped using it. My skin was a piece of art itself. There are a few moments when my skin would start to glow super bright and other times it is either orange or light brown. Then there also are moments when I can be as chocolate as I want it to be. Now I take pride in my skin. I love how I am able to be two different shades of the brown at the very same time. I am a double dose of melanin.”
In the school book for her senior High School year, one of Jeyza’s classmates wrote, “Dear Jeyza, I am going to miss you so much. You always find a way to make a smile. I wish the best for you truly…P.S. You need to model.”
Jeyza said, “That writing really encouraged me. I took a few headshots and then submitted them to various agencies before I went for college. I once called a particular agency for checking in and they said the words which were exactly like, ‘If you haven’t heard anything back, that’s your answer.’”
Finally, in the last September, I got an email from the agency named ‘We Speak Model Management’ and they invited me to come to New York. I could not go there because North Carolina was in the middle of suffering from a huge hurricane. I was heartbroken I thought this was my chance. But then I said to myself, ‘if God wants this it could happen to you tomorrow or even after 10 years, and so keep on doing what you are doing.’ After that, I got a DM from the agency in April of next year and then was signed by May. Everything had aligned itself perfectly”
On her first trip, Jeyza went and did some short for her portfolio where she walked in a yellow shirt which had overall bell-bottoms along with some high-top sneakers. Now she is a model and does not need to compare herself to anyone else.
Jeyza said, “I want to be the best in what I do. I want to be in Vogue one day. I want to be sought by those who had turned me down. I had nobody that I could idolize while I grew up. It was only my family that instilled in me the thought that I was good enough and I had nothing wrong with me. Now I want to be like that for other people who do not see what is in them.”