Melanie Gaydos was born with a rare genetic condition called ectodermal dysplasia that hinders the normal development of teeth, nails, pores, cartilage, and bones. She also has alopecia, which prevents normal hair growth, and is partially blind due to malfunctioning eyelash growth causing damage to her eyes.
After a lifetime of weird interactions with almost everybody she met, Gaydos, who is now 28, made the decision several years ago to reject dental implants and wigs and show herself as she “really” is. That choice has led to a remarkable series of events including getting involved with the fashion world in a serious way. It is difficult for someone whose appearance is so unusual to connect with people, and the artificial adornments weren’t helping. Becoming more naked, both literally and figuratively, helped her express what she saw as her more “cool, comfortable, and creative” self.
In 2012 Gaydos appeared in a Rammstein music video, an experience that likely emboldened her to make the decision to try real modeling the next year. Her unusual appearance lends itself to the art of adopting personas that is so integral to a model’s necessary toolbox.
Gaydos has said:
I think people think I’m pretty fucking weird. When I go on a photo shoot, if there’s other industry models there, they normally don’t really know what to make of me, and they’re usually like “What the fuck is this?” It’s difficult for me in the fashion world because a lot of people think of me kind of as a gimmick, “Oh, she’s just being exploited for her differences….” People really have to talk to me and get to know me in order to, I don’t know, understand where I am coming from or see where I’m coming from.
This year saw the publication of True Style Is What’s Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution by Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, who founded the websites StyleLikeU, in which Gaydos was featured prominently.
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