For years people have tried to define what beauty is. But if you really think about it, beauty is subjective. However, the modeling industry is trying to show you a bigger picture by encompassing everything that is unique and perfect in its own way.
Seeking her place under the sun is model Caitin Stickles. She doesn't adhere to the rigid beauty standards of the fashion world, rather she has carved a separate place for herself and proudly owns it. She has the cat eye syndrome. The model hasn't allowed it to dictate her life, rather she has embraced it.
Cat eye syndrome is a chromosome abnormality that affects many different parts of the body. The signs and symptoms of the condition vary widely but may include abnormalities of the eyes, ears, anal region, heart and/or kidney. Despite what the rare genetic disorder may seem like, Caitin's journey is one that needs to be read. It teaches us some valuable lessons in strength and resilience and what it means to conquer your fears.
There was a time in her life when her room and life was limited to looking at posters of models and fashionistas in her tiny room. But never did she once think that she would be one among them someday. She gives part of the credit to photographer Nick Knight, her fairy godfather, whose confidence in her changed her life. Nick Knight came across her photos on Instagram and just by giving them one glance, he knew he had found his muse and it was a matter of time that made Caitin an appearance on the pages of V magazine.
At first, Caitin found it hard to grasp the idea of working with such a renowned person but soon enough, she felt that everything that happened, happened for a reason. "It was like living out a premonition," she said. "It felt right, yet it was still surreal. I wasn't expecting to be approached as an artist to model for someone like Nick Knight. It was easily an honor for me and perhaps a brilliant opportunity for us both. I was more excited than I was nervous. I have looked up to Nick for many years in times of needing inspiration or even just some simple relation. From fashion to photography, what he does was and is something that I have deeply admired from afar all my years. I could never have dreamt up this insanely wonderful collaboration."
Once Caitin entered the world of modeling, there was no holding her back! Her fairytale had its thorns and thickets in form of trolls and critics who lost no chance in trying to pull her down. It was not every day that you see a confident woman challenge the rigid standards of fashion and beauty and that too so effortlessly. She managed to put a shield around her and not be affected. "It's like water off ducks back," she said when asked about how she chooses to respond to trolls. " I'm too busy doing what I love. I didn't give myself any other option."
Not to forget, some of many things that inspire her also play a major role in shaping her as a model. "Different people have gotten me through different times in miraculous ways," she said. "Bowie was a vital inspiration. Cyndi Lauper was a vital inspiration. Nick Knight was a vital inspiration. Tim Walker was a vital inspiration. I suppose I could say that my first and everlasting inspiration was Cher. What she did resonates with me and motivates my soul on a day to day basis. She's a perfect example of not having time for what people, or trolls, think of her. She's too busy being the multifaceted legend that we know as Cher today."
At the same time, she also had her inner strength which propelled her towards the path she has taken. "I think that my creative madness took over any insecurity that there may have been and once again, I didn't give myself any other option. Why wouldn't I embrace myself, to begin with? I wasn't going to be able to transition to another body in another life and the thought has never even occurred to me back then, so why not make the best of what was?"
Even though it may look sound easy for one to fall in love with themselves, in reality, things are very different. As a young child, Caitin found it hard to fit in with the others and often saw herself as a burden to the world. "From age 1-10 I had to learn to accept the most basic things about myself so that I could actually be myself," she said. "I felt like as a person, I was in the way, like a burden in a sense - so everything about me was small. My voice was like a mouse. I could hardly be heard. My writing was so tiny and tight that it sometimes couldn't be read. I was afraid of taking space."
But she decided to turn things around when she became 10. "Once I let go of that at 10, I was louder, wilder, and more liberated. My teenage years were all about self-expression without altering myself to please others, and I continued to fight that battle fiercely as I evolved over the years," she said.
"My fight is not compromising myself for others was what truly gave me the ability to accept myself in the first place. What I had to keep learning in my 20s, however, was that I was going to drain myself of myself trying to make the world happy, and now I still have to practice this, but I am a lot better than I used to be. I still refuse to compromise who I am for your sake."
Meanwhile, there is one thing that Caitin refuses to do and that is to stop herself from achieving what she wants. One could say that it is her fear that keeps her going."The fear of becoming stagnant is a huge motivation for me to move forward as a challenge is something that I see as a positive sign for good work in the making," she said. "I never want to be too comfortable and I never want to stop evolving. Also, pain. Pain drives me. I live in a lot of lain and I would rather make beauty with it as opposed to living in misery."
While one can see beauty and strength are reflected in all of Caitin's photos, there is another thing that will catch your eyes and it is the impressive tattoos she has. She decided to get them long before she was 18 and the second she had the approval to get them, she did not hold herself back.
"The cherry blossoms along with the butterfly that had just emerged from its cocoon spoke loudly about the fleeting beauty of life and yet also how it's never-ending. The branches aren't as full of flowers and some petals are even falling off, so there's not much time left to see the cherry blossoms in the stage they are at on my chest, but the butterfly is very, very, very new to life with its wings still sticky. It's about life and death, basically," she said.
"On my right arm is the same, waters, lilies, and lotus flowers surrounding a skull and Yama, the god of death," she continued. "My left arm displays two depictions of the same story between the gods Kali and Shiva, both of which strongly resonate with me to this day. The rest of my body is the dragons and its ocean. It's a little bit like the story of the Selkie. I needed my skin back. My skin happened to be the ocean."
At the same time, Caitin confesses that the fashion industry has helped her a lot. "It gave me self-expression without limitation, it told me that you could show and feel whatever you want in a very genuine way and still have it be beautiful," she said. "Fashion gives a voice. It provides a medium as a tool to be used however it is that you wish to use it. I think fashion is magic. even when its innovative, creative, strange, haunting, sure, but its always beautiful to me and it's always magic. Fashion oddly enough, to me is a very honest tool."
Despite falling in love with modeling, Caitin has many other interests. "I am an endlessly creative creature and probably to a fault. I love photography, which is what got me into modeling in the first place. I love writing. I love music, singing, and dancing. I was in ballet early on," she said. "I love acting as well and have worked in a few films and videos. I occasionally enjoy making jewelry from stones. I miss painting or sketching in my spare time. I gather herbs and flowers for my own teas that I brew. I don't and won't stop."
One could say that Caitin has found that one thing that motivates her and inspires her to do more and she believes that the same can be achieved by others. "For the longest time, I never thought I would see the day. Here I am though, living my dreams still. The sooner that you accept yourself, the more time you might have to actually do some really incredible things that will make you feel nothing short of amazing. It's worth working towards."
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