As a little girl she dreamt of being a model, although she knew strutting down the catwalk or gracing the fashion pages of a glossy magazine was highly unlikely.
Cheryl Shaw (33) had been diagnosed with congenital melanocytic nevus, a skin condition that causes mole-like pigmentation across the body.
“The condition has caused patches of my skin to appear darker which gives them a mole-like appearance,” the mother of two says.
“I’d be called a 101 Dalmatian or told that I look like a cookie or a leopard due to my darker spots.”
But Cheryl, who’s mother to Javante (11) and Vito (3), has risen above the bullies.
After being scouted online, the practice manager has been signed to Models of Diversity, a charity that campaigns for greater diversity in the modelling industry.
She started her own Instagram page earlier this year to showcase her imperfections.
"I used to call them beauty spots when I was younger but now I try and educate people by telling them that I have congenital melanocytic nevus,” she says.
"I also enjoy showing Javante and Vito that it's fine to have imperfections.”
Cheryl attended her first fashion shoot in April and described it as amazing. “I had the time of my life,” she says.
After hating herself for years, she’s finally embracing her imperfections and hopes to inspire others to do the same.
“I really disliked what I saw in the mirror and I was so self-conscious. But since setting up my Instagram page I’ve gained a lot more confidence due to the vast amount of supportive comments.”
And it helps that she’s building an impressive modelling career.
“It’s been a dream come true to be scouted by Models of Diversity who’ve put me in touch with huge brands.”
Angel Sinclair, founder of Models of Diversity, says the company couldn’t be prouder having Cheryl join their team.
"Models of Diversity campaigns for the fashion and media industry to challenge conventional perceptions of beauty and show a greater representation of all areas of society,” Angel says.
"That’s why we’re so proud to support Cheryl in celebrating her diversity on her journey into modelling.”
Cheryl hopes to inspire others with her story.
"I couldn't be more excited for the future,” she says.
"I hope others read my story and seek hope from it. I hope they realise you can achieve your dreams no matter what you've been through."
Source: Magazine Features