First of all, CariDee English wants you to know psoriasis is not contagious. It is an autoimmune disease characterized by patches of thick red skin and scales. Psoriasis can be extremely painful, she adds. In 2006, at age 25, she beat the odds caused by her battles with the disease and won the seventh season of “America’s Next Top Model.”

 


A face for many

But what English also wants those plagued with the condition to hear is that they aren’t alone. The International Federation of Psoriasis Associations estimate nearly 3 percent of the world’s population is affected by the disease. For now there is no cure, but there are options to help manage it. English uses her visibility as a model, actress and public figure to help create awareness and push for a remedy.

“'I didn’t shave my legs until I was 22 because I could bleed to death.'”

“I want people to know you have psoriasis; it doesn’t have you,” she declares. English was only five years old and growing up in Fargo, ND, when she discovered what she thought was a bite on her leg that turned out to be psoriasis. Although young to be diagnosed, her mom took one look and knew immediately what it was since she, too, suffered. 

Thick skin

“It was a tough childhood,” English recalls, adding she wore long sleeves and hosiery—even in the summer. By the time she was a teenager, psoriasis lesions covered 70 percent of her body. Little things that many take for granted were unthinkable for her. “I didn’t shave my legs until I was 22 because I could bleed to death.”

 


Nonetheless, English pursued her dream of modeling—often masking her disease with thick creams. She uncovered treatments that could help clear her skin, but not before she posed for pictures she knew could put a face to psoriasis.

“I decided to be proud of my condition and become an advocate for those of us with psoriasis,” she states. Among English’s goals is stressing the importance of frequent visits to a qualified dermatologist and tireless research to understand the disease. She has led many walks to garner attention and encourages others to get involved and find out there are many going through the same issues. She suggests others look for or start an awareness walk in their own town.