'Top Model' CariDee English shows off psoriasis, tackles beauty myth

Each year, women spend nearly $7 billion on beauty products in the U.S. According to the YWCA's Beauty at any Cost study, if women used the $100 normally spent monthly on beauty products and applied it to a college fund, they could cover in-state tuition at a public institution within five years. While the beauty myth still plagues the U.S., some celebrities are doing their part to educate the public that beauty is more than skin deep.

We first learned about CariDee English's revealing photo shoot where she showed 70 percent of her body covered in psoriasis from our friends at Stylelist. Winner of America's Next Top Model Cycle 7, English has battled with the chronic skin disease since age 5. We caught up with English to hear about her personal battle with psoriasis and what she's doing to change the public's perspective on beauty.

Money College: What was your reaction when you first found you had psoriasis?


CariDee English: I was about 5 years old and I was driving in my mom's car. I remember specifically looking at my leg and I saw that something there. I asked my mom what it was and she knew all too well exactly what had started to manifest on my body -- she had psoriasis, too. The moment I hit 12, it flared up really badly and it never let up since.


MC: How did you describe psoriasis to your friends or to other people who didn't know what it was?

CE: It was really difficult. As a kid, sometimes I would just brush it off to someone I didn't know like, 'Oh, its poison ivy.' I was really ashamed of it. I was convinced that I was one of the only people in the world that had it.

MC: On America's Next Top Model, the episode where you told host Tyra [Banks] about your psoriasis was a very real and touching moment. What was that moment like for you?

CE: We were filming already for two months at that point. I was surprised it took me so long to say something. I hadn't mentioned it prior because I was so scared of the discrimination that had happened before with other modeling opportunities. Tyra's got those eyes that when you look at her, you can't keep anything from her. I just kind of finally said it and it was interesting because literally a month before, I had gone on medication for it. For the first time in my whole life, I was clear. The week before I went on the show was the first time I shaved my legs.

MC: What has modeling been like since you left the show?

CE: When you win America's Next Top Model, there's this big part of your resume that says "celebrity and model." Going into high fashion is tricky. There's a lot of discrimination against a reality television star and a model so you've got to find the things that work. For me, I got off on my personality. I did a great show on Oxygen. I also made friends with great designers who saw the benefit of having a fan following as mine for their line such as Richie Rich or Bisou Bisou. You've got to market exactly who you are.

MC: You mentioned that you hosted the Oxygen show, Pretty Wicked, which looks at beauty on the inside. What did you learned about inner beauty from participating on the show.

CE: Everything I do, I want to have some heart into it. I saw these girls that were very gorgeous, but it was more about that stereotype that they were using their looks for them and that's all they had. These women were really intelligent. It was nice see these women, through the course of the show, use the challenges that were given to them and transform into beautiful, powerful women.

MC: Recently, you documented and shared with the world, your worst flair up with psoriasis where 70% of your body was covered. Why did you decide to that?

CE: I got off the medication because it was no longer safe by the FDA and I knew I was going to go into a bad flair up. The doctor said I could take this other kind of medication to control it. I was like, 'I speak globally for my disease how could I make a bigger impact?' I didn't understand until I won Top Model, the outreach of other psoriasis patients. I've given a voice for it. People know that I have it, but people never see it. I decided to be a top model and get in front of the camera with my disease and hopefully support any children, women or men who's just hiding.

MC: When celebrities like yourself or Jessica Simpson who has the reality show, The Price of Beauty, tackle that beauty myth, what impact does that have?

CE: The bottom line is that beauty is on the inside and what you're meant to look like is something you can't control, it's already pre-determined. I've met some of the most beautiful people and once they spoke, they were just the ugliest. True beauty is the inside; its the whole package.

MC: What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into the modeling world but maybe doesn't fit into this old rule of what a model is?

CE: Don't pay for it. Don't go to the places where they say, "Give us $10,000." The only thing you should ever pay for is test shots. And if you want to be a model, know that you're going to hear a 1,000 no's before you hear a yes. And when you hear that yes, you'll still hear a 1,000 no's after that. But once you get that yes, it makes it so much sweeter.

MC: What else do you have upcoming?


CE: When I was in my flair-up, it was five months. In Hollywood, five months is a long time so I decided to start recording music and got behind the drums. Music has been a passion for me for so long. I started recording with Tom Drummond from Better Than Ezra. He's producing me as I sing and play drums. We've made four songs so far. I'm really excited about it and I want my fans to follow.

English's album is forthcoming and until then, you can follow her humorous tweets @CariDeeEnglish.

Clothes to Free, appearing Thursdays, is a weekly fashion-on-a-budget column by Money College blogger Alysse Dalessandro. Send Alysse column tips at MoneyCollege@walletpop.com.

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