Melanie Gaydos was born with a condition that wouldn’t necessarily predict her career as a model with worldwide fame. Half-blind, toothless and bald, Melanie stormed the fashion world a couple of years ago and has been changing the game ever since. She can also be seen in the movies “Un Ciel Bleu Presque” (2016), “The Third Sister” (2013) and “Saint Frankenstein” (2015) and Rammstein praised her unique appearance featuring her in the official video of “Mein Herz Brennt”. Melanie’s career deconstructs the fashion stereotypes and beauty standards and brings a tremendous social shift.
On the trivia side, Melanie was born with ectodermal dysplasia, which is a condition that makes her pores, teeth, nails and small bones form abnormally. She also has alopecia and is partially blind due to eyelash growth that scratched her eyes as a child. She is an art graduate who was earning extra cash modelling through Craig’s list. Today well recognised throughout the world, you can follow Melanie on any of the following:
Hello, Melanie! First off, I’d like to thank you for agreeing to talking to me. Where is this list of questions finding you and what is going on in your life currently?
Thank you very much as well, I am currently enjoying life on the West Coast! Needed a change from NYC, and preparing for a European adventure this summer. I will be visiting Berlin for fashion week and working throughout Germany and France, maybe some other countries too.
How long have you been modelling for and what circumstances in your life brought you to fashion? What was your first experience? What kept you going? Were you prepared for that huge success?
I have been modelling for six years now! I started freelance modelling when I was studying Drawing at an art school in NYC. I had met a few photographers in the club and nightlife scene in NYC, and eventually one of them had asked me to pose for him. My first photo shoot was with a fine art and commercial photographer Adrian Buckmaster, who was inspired by my own self-portrait drawings and photographs. I was really nervous about posing for him but knew that a new experience and facing my fears would be worthwhile. The shoot itself was very relaxed and natural. Adrian let me find my own space to express myself and I had found it to be a very cathartic experience. The therapeutic, psychological aspect of it encouraged me to find more shoots because I absolutely loved the creative process. I knew that I would be able to make a career from it due to my own artistic vision and the fact that there was only one me out there in the world. So yes, in a way I was prepared for it – but it was not an easy process to go through and in many and the fact that there was
only one me out there in the world.
So yes, in a way I was prepared for it – but it was not an easy process to go through and in many ways, it still is a journey.
Your work is a great inspiration for many and of a great importance for the deconstruction of stereotypes and rigid, unproductive worldviews. Have you encountered firsthand the impact that you have on the industry, on culture, on common people? How do you experience the difference that you are bringing to the table?
Yes. A few years ago I had participated in a youtube project by Style Like U, called “What’s Underneath.” That interview was basically about part of my life story and society’s perceptions of me versus my own ideal of beauty. I didn’t know my own personal life story aside from modelling would have an effect on anyone, as I had always shied away from speaking about my medical condition or childhood in previous interviews.
I learned from sharing my own vulnerabilities, that I was able to help other people face their own and embrace life.
Breaking into the industry is not really what other people think it is, and it’s much more difficult than people may realise or begin to understand. I’m still only beginning to see my impact on the industry but really have only achieved by staying true to my own self and embracing opportunities with various artists to create together. I don’t like to think about the industry too much because to me it is work. One that I enjoy but I think it needs more creative thinkers and open minds. I think the difference is really exciting, new and fresh. I am more than happy to promote social change.
What spectrum of reactions to your modelling career have you encountered around the world?
At first, people were in awe or shocked. I receive a lot of emails praising me for my boldness. That was something I actually thought deeper about recently because I am just being myself – I don’t really care about what other people think of me. Some articles when I had first started modelling, referred to me as the “Ugliest Model in the World.” Something I have a laugh about, but it has evolved and nowadays more unique faces, personalities and styles are embraced due to other people out there in the world who are staying true to themselves and just living their lives boldly.
What has changed that you needed to see changed, and what do you still hope to see changed in the world of fashion?
I think there needs to be a stronger sense of individualism and respect toward people in general. I think much of America and the fashion industry are so obsessed with money, image and material things. I’d like to see more leaders and original minds.
What is your definition of beauty and how do you think it is affecting the social placement of women (and man for that matter)?
As I’ve stated in my Style Like U interview, beauty is a state of being. I would hope that people can relate to it on a more universal and soul level rather than the shallow or superficial notions of beauty today. It would be amazing if people are feeling more comfortable within their own skin and really taking control over their minds, bodies and souls. This is the only life we have, we need to learn how to enjoy it more.
How has the relationship with your body changed over the years? What was the evolution of your self-esteem like?
I’ve changed a lot regarding how I view my body and physical appearance. I used to be really shy in general and embarrassed about my size or being naturally thin. I was always smaller than everyone else! When I was younger I used to wear about forty different wigs of all different sizes and styles. The students I went to school with knew that I had worn a wig, so there wasn’t any hiding around that. I get bored easily and like to change my look. I could never go out of the house without a wig or hat on though because I felt too exposed or vulnerable. I stopped wearing wigs publically when I moved to NYC and started modelling because it felt more comfortable and natural to me.
Nowadays it is hard for me to think of the fact that I used to wear a wig all of the time like when I was younger. I didn’t realise how wearing a wig had created a kind of safety net for me to hide behind. I was never super affected by the way my face looked because it was how I was born and I couldn’t do anything about that or really wanted to. The only times I had difficulty with my appearance were when I was socialising or with my peers in school. People sometimes are intimidated by me or don’t know what to think of me when they first meet. I had never really cared about that except I was bothered by the fact that people can be so rude to project their own fears or insecurities onto me. It doesn’t make for a very comfortable experience. Nowadays I have a deeper understanding of where other people are coming from, and I don’t let it bother me. I just stay true to myself and try to be as positive as possible. I’m still learning, not an easy thing to do but practice makes perfect. When I was younger I was shy and reserved. Nowadays, I’m much more outgoing and flirty with life.
When did you notice for the first time that you are a woman and have a female body? What did that mean to you back then and how do you feel about it now?
The first time I noticed that I had a female body was when I was about 7 or 8 years old and I had started taking dance lessons (ballet and jazz). I loved moving around and especially loved my dance uniforms and ballet shoes. I had also gotten a new human hair wig and started to learn more about fashion and personal style. I became a woman when I had first started menstruating in my teens.
It was a sign to me that I was meant to be a creator and creator of life. I still feel the same today.
What was your childhood like? Did you back then thought that your life and career will develop the way they have?
I didn’t have the best childhood experience, from a stressful relationship with my family to always being at doctor appointments. Though I was in the girl scouts and various church groups, I mostly kept to myself and enjoyed reading, drawing, and being outdoors. I had a fascination with billboards and loved the movie theatre. I started to perform in school and church plays outside of dance classes and had an affinity to be larger than life. I don’t think I ever would have thought that I would be living the life I am today.
What does it mean to you to be a successful woman?
Being a successful woman means living life to its fullest potential.
What is your fav recreational thing/activity? How do you recharge?
I love being outdoors or watching movies. Doing these things as well as reading, working out, or doing yoga helps me recharge. Shopping is also really fun. If I am on a busy work trip, listening to music and taking a nice bath are a few of the simplest things I can do to relax.
Is there an intimate partner in your life now, and (if positive) what brought you together?
No, I am currently single.
What would have you be doing if fashion had not embraced you?
If fashion had not embraced me (though really I embraced fashion), I would definitely be working in the film industry somehow with production or design.
Photo credits to: