Caridee English is a successful model, actress and musician who also happens to have psoriasis. An autoimmune disease that manifests in red, itchy patches on the skin, psoriasis affects 7 million people in the United States alone.

On rejection

In the early days of her career, English was constantly being dropped by major modeling agencies because of her psoriasis, she says. “Don’t let anybody tell you that whatever you want to do is delusional, because looking back on [my modeling career] now, I’d be like, ‘Oh my God—good luck.’”

English says a common misconception is that psoriasis is contagious—it is not. “The biggest struggle I had is people looking at me and being afraid to get close to me right away,” she says, going on to detail personal struggles with intimacy and confidence that still plague her.

“‘The biggest struggle I had is people looking at me and being afraid to get close to me right away.’”

“Even though, now, I’m controlling it with medications, there’s still so much trauma from having the disease my whole life,” English explains. “Like when a person loses a lot of weight, they feel good, but they still have that stigma—that insecurity.”

Becoming an advocate  

Part of English’s motivation to go on “America’s Top Model” was to grab a platform to speak about her disease. “All the rejection I had faced since the beginning of my career,” she recalls, “I needed to go somewhere where America would have my back.

“I was like: I’m going to go on national television, become a model, hopefully win, but also announce that I have psoriasis, and then I’d be accepted. I knew it would be something that I could say and that I could inspire many people. I could say, ‘Hey, I have psoriarsis, but it doesn’t have me.’”

Tips for life with psoriasis

English, who is currently a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation, urges others to educate themselves about their disease. “Don’t expect to walk into a doctor’s office and have them tell you everything about it,” she says. “A doctor will help you manage it, but it’s your disease. You have to manage it yourself. You have the choice of suffering. Pain is inevitable; suffering is an option.”