A woman who was tormented for years by bullies who called her a ‘leper’ because of her psoriasis and eczema has had the last laugh – by becoming a top MODEL.
Pretty Luissa Burton, 27, was so crippled with low self-esteem and anxiety after years of abuse that she couldn’t even look in the mirror without crying.
Luissa has suffered from eczema all her life, and developed psoriasis when she was 19 after suffering stress in her second year at the University of Nottingham.
Following the diagnosis, she refused to wear dresses or strap-tops out of fear of exposing her skin, and felt “broken and dirty”.
During a trip to Thorpe Park in 2009 she even broke down in tears when she overheard a child point at her red patches and shout: “What are those on that girl’s legs!”
She said: “It was horrible.
“Eczema is effectively nothing more than dry skin, but because of the lack of awareness that certain people have about what it entails, it led to the bullying.
“Some of the parents told their kids that I had a tropical disease, and that if they sat next to me they would catch it too.
“It meant that I was very isolated, and had really low self-esteem.
“I’d get patches all over my body, and people would call me names like ‘leper’ and
‘lizard’, which was horrific.
“I just didn’t want my skin to be there anymore, I just wanted to be rid of it.
“With the eczema, the flare-ups come and go, and when I was younger I found it really hard to come to terms with.
“I still loved performing, though, and would always pose up for pictures and take part in plays at school.”
Luissa – who is an ambassador for the British Skin Foundation – silenced her bullies when she was crowned Miss Model of Great Britain 2012 and Miss Earth England 2016.
Luissa, from Worcester, added: “When I was 14, I got scouted out at the Clothes Show Live at the Birmingham NEC, and that was when I first started to seriously think about becoming a model.
“Over time I took part in more and more catwalks and pageants, and it helped me to build up my confidence.
“But when I was 19, I went through a period of stress, and that was when the psoriasis started to develop.
“It was absolutely all over my body, and every time that I started to get stressed out, it would come back.
“It was a vicious circle, because it would just make me more stressed, and that in turn would make the psoriasis worse.
“I wouldn’t want to go out wearing dresses, skirts or tops with straps, I would always cover myself up because I didn’t want to expose myself.
“Whenever I had psoriasis patches, I would notice people staring or pointing at me, I just felt like I stood out.
“I felt like it was going to ruin my modelling career, and I couldn’t look in the mirror without bursting into tears.
“There were some flare-ups where the psoriasis would cover the whole of my legs and arms, and were all over my body. That just made me stressed, which in turn would make it worse.
“At one stage I was told that I would never make it as a model because of the condition.
“A photographer once recommended that my marks be airbrushed out, which made me feel like less of a person than my colleagues.
“I tried every whacky treatment that I possibly could to make it better – I would put honey on my sores, wrap myself up in cling film, and use steroid creams.
“People close to me encouraged me to push on with the modelling, and that was exactly what I did. I would cover up the marks with makeup, and deal with it that way.
“I did a beauty pageant in Albania in 2012, and the positive remarks that I got from the judge helped convince me to keep going.
“Over time my confidence just grew, and I was able to feel more at home in my own skin and come to terms with the illness.
“It almost became a personal mission, to show people that I could be a successful model despite the condition.”
Single Luissa has now represented England five times internationally, and gives talks to aspiring models about overcoming skin imperfections.
She said: “I often get messages from psoriasis sufferers, asking me for advice on what sort of treatments to go for and how to feel better about themselves.
“I love that people feel comfortable coming to me for advice, and I get a real buzz out of making them feel better about themselves.
“A few months ago I started using Dermalex, and that has been by far the best treatment that I’ve used.
“As well as treating the patches, it also makes the skin stronger, so that it’s less susceptible to flare-ups.
“I fully believed that you’re never successful until your success helps others, and that is exactly what I’m trying to do.
“My goal is to show people that negative comments should never deter you from going out and achieving your goals, and that you should feel comfortable about who you are.
“For me, my confidence has become more important to me than my skin condition, and that’s a valuable lesson to other women with skin conditions.”