A woman who was born with a rare facial condition that saw her undergo more than 100 sessions of reconstructive surgery has realised her dream of becoming a model.
Alison Midstokke, 31, has Treacher Collins syndrome – a health condition that affects the development of bones in the face.
The aspiring actor spent months in hospital having reconstructive surgery on her face, as well as to correct her speech and hearing.
Now she is inspiring thousands with her stunning photo shoots.
”When I was five years old I stared at myself in the mirror and asked my mother why I was so ugly,” she said. “She told me it was because I had Treacher Collins and my face hadn’t developed properly.
“After I had my surgeries - including a major reconstruction in 2010 - I felt so much more confident. It changed my life.”
She added: “When I was eight, I would draw images of a woman with a deformed appearance who gradually turned into a beautiful woman with a lovely figure.
“It’s a process that took years to achieve.”
Midstokke, who lives in New York, was adopted a few weeks after birth by her parents Denise and Rick.
Since she was a tiny baby, she had been in and out of hospital, undergoing operations to correct her cranial-facial abnormalities.
She has lost count of exactly how many procedures she has had but thinks it is more than 100.
Her extensive surgeries meant she was frequently away from school.
She was also born hearing impaired and doctors believed she would never be able to speak.
But, at the age of five she began to communicate verbally with her family.
”I spent so much time at the hospital and being with the doctors that I felt like was raised by them,” she said.
“Going back to school to face everyone takes a toll on you.
“I had friends and I was a likeable, outgoing, playful kid. I was always happy and didn’t mind being alone.
“But growing up, I was treated differently even by my own friends. I have been excluded from individuals or groups.
“I was never invited to that many birthday parties but I always had a few close friends.”
She added: “My school was very supportive though. I had one big surgery when I was nine and my classmates wrote get well cards and sent flowers.
“For the most part, the children I grew up with were supportive about my changes but I was really scared about the judgement I would get.”
As surgeons corrected Midstokke’s abnormalities, her anxiety about her appearance grew.
After a particularly drastic surgery aged 17, she dropped out of school in fear of the reaction her classmates would have.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to school with a major transformation,” she explained.
“I cared too much about what people thought at the time and I was having issues accepting myself.”
Although she vowed never to change her appearance again, she underwent one final reconstructive surgery in 2010, where doctors injected fat into her face to create fuller cheekbones.
She also had a chin implant and her nose straightened to enable her to breathe easily.
When she was fifteen she started modelling for artists and photographers and realised she was hooked.
But after her surgery in 2010 her hobby turned into a career and she had photographers clamouring to work with her.
“This is the surgery that changed my life and I felt so much more confident,” she said.
“I felt I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a model and actress.
“I’m so much happier now that I’ve become who I’m supposed to be.
“I’ve had a few bad experiences living in the city especially in New York City. People tend to say what they want to say but I realised that is just city life and there are always going to be negative people everywhere you go.”
She added: “Once I knew who I was as a person, nothing got to me.”
For more information, visit www.alisonmidstokke.com.