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"Top Model" CariDee English Shares Her Lifelong Battle With Psoriasis

 
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"America's Next Top Model" winner CariDee English advocates for women with psoriasis and recounts her own insecurities related to this chronic autoimmune condition.

Todd Hartley:
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease. Now in the most basic terms, the immune system sends out faulty signals speeding up the growth cycle of skin cells. Now it’s not contagious and much more common than you would ever think and that’s why I’d like to introduce you to CariDee English who, well you may know as the winner of the seventh season of “America’s Next Top Model.” Hi CariDee!

CariDee English:

Hi, how are you?

Todd Hartley:
I am doing great, thank you so much for joining us on EmpowHER and what a great opportunity to share your story with women.

CariDee English:
Oh thank you so much for having me. I am really passionate about what I speak about and definitely empowering women is a huge motive for me.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, I know, I get it also. When did you first notice that psoriasis was developing on your skin and what did it look like?

CariDee English:
Well, I was 5 years old and I noticed a little patch on my leg and I wasn’t quite sure what it was, and I asked my mother and she knew because like it’s hereditary so I got it from her and she knew exactly what it was and it just kind of kept growing as I grew.

Todd Hartley:
Now I’ve seen photos, but describe for those who haven’t, what type of area it covers on your body?

CariDee English:
Well, it doesn’t discriminate about what part of the body it covers. I got covered head to toe. The only place it didn’t really affect me was my face, but my scalp, my back, my arms and my legs, my feet, my hands – everywhere.

Todd Hartley:
Wow! You know, obviously I have seen your modeling photos and you look beautiful and you look confident, but has your psoriasis ever made you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed?

CariDee English:
All the time. All the time. It’s something that, you know, even though I’m an advocate for it and I come from an empowering source, I’m still a woman when it comes down to it and I get very insecure when I have a flare up like the one I had recently.

It was hard. I had to hide underneath, you know, long sleeves when it’s hot out like even putting my arm out of the car when I was driving I got really insecure about and you’re handing over like change for a cashier, they would like look at my hand and be really scare of it.

Todd Hartley:
Now you mentioned that you had a flare up. Does your psoriasis symptoms come and go? Are they worse some times and others?

CariDee English:
Well, a flare will happen for a many amount of reasons, but the reason I flared up was that I was on a different medication that I got taken off of and I chose to get my skin as worse as possible to document it and come from a stand of like look, this is me with my psoriasis, all me, all woman, but there’s things you can do to treat it.

Todd Hartley:
Well I got to see some of those photos. They were sent over and they are going to be in this presentation. I got to tell you, and we had this conversation in the office, there’s something really beautiful about you being you and just showing everybody the way it is for you, and tell me what that felt like. Obviously you must have had a bunch of mixed emotions deciding to do that.

CariDee English:
Yeah, thank you. It was very, when I first thought about it I was like, “I don’t know if I can really expose myself like that.” Even in my career it’s not the safest thing to do, but at the same time it’s like, you know, I speak about psoriasis, but I have psoriasis and I wanted to go to the next step and what can I do for the beautiful people who come up and say how much I have helped them by speaking about it, I’m like, I’m gunna show it and it was hard even doing the shoot, trying to be confident, still beautiful within the shoot. As you can see in the pictures, I’m very much covered and so it was kind of a mind twist for me, kind of, when I take pictures, I’m used to having clear skin so I feel very confident and taking pictures of something I have hid under, you know, clothes my whole life was a liberating and a scary thing at the same time.

Todd Hartley:
I think it’s extremely courageous. You know, how do you explain this to friends in your life and then also, how do you explain it to somebody that you are going to be intimate with?

CariDee English:
Well that’s, that was the thing that was the hardest for me to try. Before I would be like, “Oh”, I’d kind of just brush it off, like I wouldn’t even try to explain what psoriasis, I’m like, “Oh, I got hurt,” or something, you know, just to keep it short. But then as time went by I’m like, I really need to, you know, embellish what my disease is and really, not embellish, but really embrace it rather and talk about it and let people know that it’s not contagious.

I mean, the only reason people are scared is they don’t know about it and if I don’t speak about what it is and people are continuing to be scared about it. With my friends, they love me anyway and with a person that you know, an intimate partner like, I had a boyfriend for five years and he loved me more with it, you know, it’s funny and if the person doesn’t accept it then they are not accepting you.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, then they are not the right person.

CariDee English:
No, absolutely not, absolutely not, absolutely not.

Todd Hartley:
All right, well tell me about the medication you take, how it helps, and what’s worked and what hasn’t over the years?

CariDee English:
Well I started off with a bunch of medications that when, you know, when I was 5 I was doing treatments, light treatments are effective for some people. There’s creams, there’s ointments, there’s a bunch of pills that you can take but a new, brand new thing that started coming out is a biologic, and I take a certain one called STELARA™ and it’s the first of its kind because it targets strictly just for psoriasis patients.

And when I knew it was coming out I would, “Oh, I can’t wait to take a medication that’s like specifically targeted for psoriasis and know I’m not taking it for anything else,” and it’s been a god-send for me because it allows me to take two shots; within two months I was like 90% clear.

Todd Hartley:
Wow!

CariDee English:
And that was great, I was right back on my feet, right back working and I haven’t stopped since. I think I’ve done like 7 shoots in the past month, runaway shows; it’s been incredible. I have me back again.

Todd Hartley:
So naturally, psoriasis is something that can keep you from working when it’s flared up?

CariDee English:
Absolutely, oh absolutely. I went through a very bad flare up right in the height of my career and instead of being a victim and feeling pouty about it, you know, I did for a little bit and I had my days, but I decided to make the most out of it, document it, you know, and to say you can still work with psoriasis. Now why don’t you work for psoriasis, you know, show it.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, that’s so interesting.

CariDee English:
Life gives you lemons; make lemonade, even if it’s a little sour.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, but in your industry, I mean let’s be honest, in your industry, it’s not a place for people to show their imperfection. So what gives you the freedom?

CariDee English:
No, absolutely not.

Todd Hartley:
Right, what gives you the freedom?

CariDee English:
Well, I think anybody who makes a change and the way people see things they do in an outrageous way. So, you know, there’s things that I back out of to, you know, protect who I am and people who might discriminate like such as going on red carpet events and stuff like that where I knew I’d be photographed like, would to have to face the public scrutiny of it, but also just taking it and trying to be empowered, but taking it also and being cautious because people in my industry go on based on looks, especially modeling and it was keeping healthy while my skin was flared and knowing that there was going to be a treatment options for me as soon as it was available.

Todd Hartley:
What do you say to a young woman who is listening to this that has psoriasis and hasn’t really taken the first steps to get help with it?

CariDee English:
Well I think the best advice I can give personally from myself is to tell other people that you have to know that you have psoriasis. You know, you can’t think it’s just going to, you’re going to wake up one day and it’s going to go away because there is no cure. So embrace it, you don’t be happy about embracing it, but still embrace it and know that it’s part of you and get educated on what will work to clear your psoriasis and live a life that doesn’t have psoriasis looking for you.

Todd Hartley:
Now for those who don’t know CariDee right now is, she just left a photo, right?

CariDee English:
Yeah, I am in between shots right now.

Todd Hartley:
And you are in Santa Monica, California down by the famous Santa Monica Pier with the Ferris wheel.

CariDee English:
Yes.

Todd Hartley:
And we can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your health condition with us. She is CariDee English, you know her. She is the seventh season winner of “America’s Next Top Model” and not only is she a beautiful model, but she is an advocate for women’s health. CariDee, thank you so much!

CariDee English:
Thank you for letting my voice to be heard.

Learn More About Psoriasis at www.Psoriasis.org

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous

I am 48 year old african american woman I have pustular psoriasis which is very painful. Unlike Caridee English my psoriasis has effect my facial skin its very discolorate and also my entire body. I just want said I am glad she put a face on Psoriasis.

July 20, 2010 - 3:23pm
HERWriter Guide

Singer LeAnn Rimes also has psoriasis and is active in a campaign to empower others. You can read about it here:
http://www.empowher.com/news/herarticle/2010/03/31/leann-rimes-urges-people-psoriasis-stop-hiding

April 8, 2010 - 12:12pm
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