Model opens up about coming to terms with her rare condition

Christie Valdiserri has been struggling to cope with her changing appearance for years, but now she’s proudly flaunting her natural look.

The 26-year-old model is a finalist for the cover of Sports Illustrated’s legendary swimsuit issue cover. She also has alopecia, an autoimmune condition that can cause hair loss.

Valdiserri opened up in an interview with Fox News about how her career has taken off after years of fearing she’d have to give up her dream of dancing and modeling.

Three years ago, while preparing to leave for a trip to celebrate her birthday and college graduation, she found a tiny bald patch on the top of her head. Not long after, her hair began falling out in clumps.

Valdiserri told Fox News she had just booked a job as a dancer on a cruise ship, but within six weeks, she was fired.

“I was told I stood out and I pulled attention and the only thing I could come to terms with was because of my hair loss,” she told the website.

She says she “hid” under a blonde wig for a year and tried to pretend she wasn’t struggling with alopecia.

“I felt like it was destroying me,” she told Fox News. “It was consuming me.”

Over the next few months, Valdiserri’s hair grew back, then started falling out again.

“I guess [I’ve] got to shave my head and own the look,” she told Fox News. “I don’t want to look this way … it’s hard for me to look at myself in the mirror.”

In a confident moment, Valdiserri’ decided to submit a video for open casting for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue —  ditching her typical blonde wig.

“I feel like I got the confidence because I knew I needed a bigger life,” she said in the interview. “I needed to inspire one girl who cries herself to sleep every night to realize that it’s OK to have this look.”

Her confidence is working for her. Just one month after deciding to remove her wig, she’s booked a photoshoot — and now she’s in the running to land one of the most iconic covers in magazine history.

“It hasn’t been rainbows and butterflies to get here and I’m so grateful and I never want to forget the journey,” Valdiserri told Fox News. “There’s not one way to be … you do not need to fit into a box. You can be whoever you want to be.”

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