A woman with a rare genetic disorder has revealed how modelling has injected her life with confidence.
Former fine art student Melanie Gaydos lives with ectodermal dysplasia, a disorder that effects the development and function of teeth, hair, nails and sweat glands.
The 27-year-old has alopecia, a bilateral cleft palate, no teeth and is partially blind, but none of this has stopped her from pursuing a career in front of the lens.
Speaking in an interview for the What’s Underneath Project, Gaydos revealed she endured between 30 and 40 surgeries as a young woman and grew up in an abusive, alcoholic family environment, leaving her struggling with suicidal thoughts.
"Growing up, I never thought I’d be alive past the age of 18," she says in the video. "I never thought I would kill myself; I just kind of thought that it would happen by accident. [But] as I got older, I did think I would kill myself."
Today, Gaydos is making strides in the fashion world after being persuaded to explore the possibilities by a boyfriend. She started by picking up work on Craigslist, before seting up an amateur Model Mayhem account and approaching photographers herself to build up her portfolio.
It paid off, as Gaydos was selected to star in a music video for the German heavy metal band Rammstein and has worked with some of the big names in the industry, taking her to the brink of high fashion.
Speaking to Yahoo Style last month, Gaydos said: “This year I’ve taken a more active approach in really truly believing in myself and who I am as a person.
“Modelling really inspired all of that. In a strange way it helped confirm and validate my reasons for living.
“I didn’t start modelling for other people as selfish as that sounds. I was doing it for myself. But what I’ve come to realise is that, in doing it for myself, I’m helping other people become more comfortable with themselves.”
In an interview with the Daily Beast last year Gaydos revealed that when people share or tag pictures of her online, "the word ugly is almost always with each photo.
"It's not something I haven't heard before. But I never thought of myself as ugly, and I still don't."
Visit the Ectodermal Dysplasia Society for more information on Gaydos' condition.