"It's an autoimmune disease," explains CariDee English. Having struggled with chronic psoriasis since age 5, she’s quite familiar with the science of the disease, as well as the challenges it creates. "It's not a topical thing you can put lotion on and you'll be fine. It needs to be addressed from the inside out."

Overcoming obstacles

But it was the outside—the scaly patches and sensitive skin—that led to childhood bullying and later nearly derailed her dream of modeling professionally. "Nobody would hire me. I was constantly told to pursue other things." 

"I'm not just a top model," she says. "Now I get to be a role model."

After being dropped by a modeling agency when photos revealed her plaque psoriasis, she signed up for "America's Next Top Model." She decided to discuss her condition on the show. "I was empowered to speak out about it," she recalls. 

Comfort in her own skin

The risk paid off. "Something that threatened to stifle my career got so much support from America," she says. English says she now has her psoriasis under control, and that she won more than a title. 

"I'm not just a top model," she says. "Now I get to be a role model."