It is rare to have the opportunity to meet someone whose beauty runs deeper than the skin’s surface, and down into their inner core of who they are. It’s even more rare for that woman to be a model, but Breanne Rice is all that and more.
The first time I met this petite brunette bombshell, only months ago, I knew she was special and had a powerful message to share.
For most of us women, we must learn how to accept our so-called “flaws” before we are able to truly loves ourselves. It is through this journey that we discover that our flaws are what make us unique and special. For Breanne, she was a model by profession who had to learn how to feel comfortable in her own skin. Quite literally.
At the young age of 19, an age when we are filled with immense insecurity, Breanne was diagnosed with vitiligo – an auto-immune skin disorder – as it made its first appearance on her beautiful face. Her doctor told her there was nothing that could be done, and after looking at some photos of people affected by the skin disorder, Breanne was devastated. At the time, she’d been modeling for two years and feared that her career would be over. She also feared judgement from others, so she chose to hide her “secret.”
“I was finding my value in what I looked like, at that time,” she explains. “It was a lot to handle because it was a permanent thing, and I knew I was going to lose more pigment on my face.”
Time spent in front of a mirror in the mornings grew to a minimum of 45 minutes, as Breanne applied layers of foundation to cover the lightened pigment across her nose. For years she kept it to herself. No one, other than her parents, knew. Not her closest friends or a single boyfriend.
Finally, at 31 years old, Breanne decided that she didn’t want to hide anymore. Every day had become a battle, and accepting this “flaw” started her journey of learning to love herself. Part of that process was being vulnerable and open with her struggle, and for Breanne, that meant she had to go public. She posted a photo on Instagram, showing her make-free face and exposing her vitiligo for the very first time, and it went viral.
Breanne’s courage inspired so many that she became a guest on The Dr. Phil Show, a star on TLC’s Too Ugly For Love? – a series that follows individuals with a medical condition to show how it affects their relationships, career and everyday life – and a contestant on last year’s reality show The Bachelor. She’s also been featured in many magazines, such as People, Cosmopolitan and Teen Vogue.
“I’ve always felt compelled to help other women,” Breanne says. “I wanted my story to inspire others who have insecurities, and maybe don’t fit the mold of society’s standards of beauty, to feel comfortable in their own skin by being confident and loving themselves for how they were uniquely created. We all come in different colors, shapes and sizes. Shit happens, but we can only control how we react to a situation. Coming clean, for me, felt like a big weight was lifted off, and now I don’t have that mindset anymore.”
Through this journey of self-discovery, Breanne also found her calling as a certified nutritional therapy practitioner, helping clients around the globe to be their best self through healthy eating. Since vitiligo is an auto-immune disorder, she also developed food allergies so her diet now consists of organic all-natural whole foods that provide anti-inflammatory properties and gut health. She removed gluten, egg whites, and all processed foods from her diet as well.
“When I turned 30, I had this awakening to this new journey,” she says. “So, I embraced who I am, and a part of that was letting go. Things have kind of worked themselves out. You get little pieces of a puzzle, randomly and sporadically, and eventually you see this masterpiece unfold.”
Today, Breanne says that she no longer focuses on perfection when she does her makeup in the morning. She admits that while it still bothers her some days, now she often leaves home without wearing any makeup at all. “At first that was weird for me, but now I tell myself that people are looking at my beauty not my vitiligo.”
Images online and in social media create an unrealistic standard of perfection, says Breanne. And if we continue to compare ourselves to others, we will never be satisfied with ourselves.
“We all have our own journey,” she says. “When you look in the mirror, focus on what you love about yourself and your own unique gifts and talents. Focus on you, know who you are and your value. Once you have that, no one can take it away from you.”
Kristin Bentley, mom to a blended family of six, is the Founder and Editor of RealArmyWives.org, a support network for today’s Army wife. Before her husband was re-assigned from Fort Benning to Fort Lewis, Wash., she was the Editor of the Infantry Bugler, the National Infantry Association’s official magazine.