A woman with a rare genetic condition that makes her look far older than her actual age is looking to challenge stereotypes by entering the modelling industry.
Twenty-six-year-old Sara Guerts from Minneapolis, Minnesota is one of only a dozen people with Dermatosparaxis Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) – a type of skin condition that leaves her with stretchy and baggy skin.
The condition causes her to have soft, doughy skin that tears easily. She also has to handle having weaker joints and muscles than most people, choosing to cope with the pain using natural remedies including medical marijuana.
Sara said: “I have noticed as I get older, my discrepancies and my pain to my symptoms play a larger role in my life.
“I refrain from wearing super tight clothes because the more I do wear it causes constriction and because of the extra skin it can rip and cause tearing.”
Credit: Barcroft Media
Sara first realised she was different from other kids when she was just seven years old, with her condition getting progressively worse as she entered her teens.
As her form of EDS was little known when she was growing up, Sara had to endure numerous doctors’ visits and tests, as well as a battle with low self-esteem. Thankfully, she was never bullied due to her condition, although she admits she went through high school just trying to ‘cover it up’.
Sara said: “My biggest insecurity with Ehlers-Danlos would have been my skin – from being out in public and wearing tank tops and dresses and shorts. As I got older, it just kind of started to show more and more.
“I wasn’t bullied and my family and friends were very supportive, but I hated my skin. I was lucky I didn’t get any nasty remarks, but while my friends wore revealing outfits, I’d hide away in baggy clothes.”
Sara as a child. Credit: Barcroft Media
In 2015, when Sara was 22 and smarting from a difficult break-up, she decided to upload a photo of herself to Love Your Lines, a Tumblr page dedicated to sharing skin imperfections.
The post received over 25,000 likes. Although she admits it was a ‘difficult journey’, people’s interest in Sara’s story led her to look at her body in a completely different way, with Sara saying that she is now ‘the most confident I have ever been’.
She said: “I tried to cover up my skin constantly. And I didn’t want to talk about it. But now I think it’s just the most beautiful thing ever – just the uniqueness and the rarity and the way the lines form and just the art that is made from just the patterns that are there.
“It’s amazing. It makes me so sad that I looked at it as just this ugly thing at one point in time.”
Sara started modelling with the support of her girlfriend, Briana Berglund, who is now her personal photographer.
The pair started taking photos around two years ago on a mobile phone, before upgrading to a proper Nikon camera.
Briana said: “I don’t really see the disability or disorder in Sara. I think she is just beautiful the way she is. I don’t really notice any difference in her from anyone else. We like to travel and just take photos pretty much anywhere we can.”
While Sara’s skin was once her biggest insecurity, now she takes pride in her unique look as she embarks on her modelling career.
She now hopes to one day move to Los Angeles and make society rethink its ideas on perfection, showing that imperfections are what really make someone beautiful.
Sara said: “We are in the generation of albinism models. We have melanin models. We have vitiligo models. We have plus size models. And those are all fabulous things. But the one thing that we are really missing are people with disorders within our everyday commercials.
“Personally I hope that by getting out there with modelling with my Ehlers-Danlos, I am able to almost be the face of Ehlers-Danlos. And not only, you know, raise awareness but spread the word, connect with people.”