Model Behavior is an A Plus series featuring fashion models who promote body positivity, and work to create inclusivity and diversity within the industry by expanding our definition of conventional beauty.
Cancer may take away your hair but it doesn't have to take away your self-confidence or your dreams.
That is the positive message behind Andrea Sierra Salazar's recent photo shoot. The Texas teenager was diagnosed with stage 2 nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma after her mom, Adriana Salazar, found a lump in her neck. And though the 17-year-old felt self-conscious when her hair felt out after chemotherapy, she decided to use the time away from school and treatments to pursue modeling.
To help make her daughter's modeling dreams a reality, Adriana contacted different photographers, and many agreed to shoot Andrea, including photographer Gerardo Garmendia.
Garmendia's photo shoot of Andrea sends a powerful message about following your dreams and embracing your beauty, inside and out.
Garmendia explained to BuzzFeed that Andrea came up with a "princess without a wig" concept for the shoot.
She then shared the photos on social media, and they have gone viral thanks to her "Cancer doesn't stop me from being a princess" message. Since the photos were tweeted on August 10, they have been liked over 200,000 times and retweeted 96,000 times.
On Instagram, Andrea wrote about the empowering message behind the photo shoot, "A couple of months ago, when my hair first started to fall out, I would have never imagined being able to go out in public without a wig. I had lost most confidence in myself. But along with many other things, this journey has taught me to love and accept myself regardless of the way I look. I've learned that the hair on someone's head doesn't define who they are as a person, but their actions and the way they treat others. All girls are princesses, and today I feel beautiful inside and out."
"Andrea just had that something special about her," Garmendia tells A Plus in an email. "The way that she was coping with cancer was just very inspirational to me. I was happy to capture this stage of life for her and that she will have something beautiful to look back on even when the struggle was hard."
"I think people have fallen in love with her photos because she really reflects life, hope and real journey of a person struggling with cancer. It's real and raw and honest. I think it's special because she was open and not ashamed or embarrassed to share that part of herself. She showed that even though the journey is hard, there is hope."
Andrea's photos spread an inspirational message to those dealing with cancer about not letting the disease define or limit you. They also show everyone about power of loving yourself from the inside out.