26-year-old woman with 'saggy' skin condition is inspiring others by owning her wrinkles
It would be fair to say that the last few years have seen us become a more accepting and welcoming society. While there is undoubtedly still a large proportion of people who find it difficult to accept members of the LGBTQ community and have questionable views regarding immigration and different religions - society has largely shifted for the better.
There's a host of reasons for the shift and one of them is the confidence people now have in their bodies. The body positivity movement has allowed those who suffer from disorders to embrace their body's and promote them online. One woman who is a leading light in this aspect is Sara Guerts.
The 26-year-old from Minneapolis, Minnesota suffers from an extremely rare genetic condition which makes her look a lot older than she actually is. She is looking to challenge body stereotypes by entering the modelling industry.
Sara suffers from Dermatosparaxis Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) - a skin condition that leaves her with stretched, baggy skin. It's believed that Sara is one of 12 people to suffer from the condition, with her also having to cope with weak joints and muscles.
Speaking about living with the disorder, Sara says:
"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."
She claims that she first realised that she was different to other people at the age of seven and that the condition got worse as she entered her teens.
EDS was a relatively unknown quantity when Sara was growing up, meaning that she had to deal with numerous doctors' visits, as well as battling with low self-esteem. Thankfully for Sara, she was never bullied about her condition, although she does admit that she used to cover it up.
"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."
At the age of 22, Sara uploaded a photo onto Love Your Lines, a Tumblr page that is dedicated to sharing skin imperfections. The post got over 25,000 likes and Sara admits that the interest in her body let to her feeling "the most confident I have ever been."
"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 began modelling with the help of her girlfriend, Briana Berglund, who now acts as her personal photographer. Speaking about their relationship, 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."
Sara now takes pride in her appearance and is embarking on a modelling career. She is hoping to move to LA and make society - and the modelling world - re-think its perceptions of beauty.
"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."
Fair play to Sara for trying to make the world a more inclusive and welcoming place. No doubt that given the increase in diversity across the world of modelling, we'll be seeing her on some campaigns soon.