As the old expression goes, the best revenge is living well. After years of being bullied for her appearance Melanie Gaydos has risen above her haters by becoming a high fashion model. She suffers from a rare syndrome called ectodermal dysplasia, which is characterized by abnormalities of the dermal layer of skin, including hair, teeth, nails, and facial bone structure. Melanie has just a few teeth and an unusual bone structure, is partially blind, and also suffers from alopecia, which she claims makes her look like Tommy Pickles from Rugrats.
Melanie explains that she dealt with a lot of staring and bullying as a child, and her thoughts turned dark as she become a teenager. “As a child I faced a lot of bullying and a lot of people stared at me . . . I was really depressed and suicidal; I didn’t really want to live,” she told Metro “I didn’t think that I would be alive past the age of 18.” She ended up pursuing a degree in fine art at the Pratt Institute in New York City, which is where her life changed.
Melanie had always dreamed of being “larger than life,” and a boyfriend convinced her to try out modeling. “He helped me to understand that I am the only person who looks like me,” she told Yahoo! Style. In her spare time, she began responding to ads on Craigslist looking for unique people to shoot. Once every weekend became booked with modeling gigs, she realized she could make her hobby into a career.
Despite the complications of her disorders and the challenges she’s faced in life, Melanie is confident, happy, and self-assured. “[My syndrome] doesn’t bother me, and it never did,” she said. “People used to ask me: how do you eat without teeth? Well, people with no legs run marathons. It’s all a matter of perception.”
While you may consider her one of the new wave of models redefining the industry — such as Jillian Mercado , Madeline Stuart and Winnie Harlow — Melanie didn’t get into this career to be a role model. “I didn’t start modeling for other people, as selfish as that sounds,” she said. “I was doing it for myself. But what I’ve come to realize is that, in doing it for myself, I’m helping other people become more comfortable with themselves.”