How One Woman Learned To Feel Beautiful Again After Her Lupus Diagnosis

"You guys are beautiful. Beautiful in your own skin. Beautiful internally. Love yourself."

When Jokiva Bellard first found out she had lupus — an autoimmune disease causing her body's immune system to attack its own tissues and organs — she felt like her "world was going to end." But through her diagnosis, Bellard overcame her personal struggles, learning to feel beautiful again, and inspiring others like her to feel the same.

In a video for Allure magazine, Bellard opens up about this journey, starting with when she was first diagnosed. Lupus is difficult for doctors to diagnose, and everyone experiences its symptoms differently.  Lupus is often diagnosed in young women, between the ages of 15 and 44, and it's estimated that at least five million people worldwide have a form of lupus. Bellard was diagnosed with discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), "a chronic skin condition of sores with inflammation and scarring favoring the face, ears, and scalp and at times on other body areas," according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology

"I felt as if my identity had been stripped away from me when I first found out that I had it," Bellard says, adding that people who saw her with rashes would walk away from her out of fear that she was contagious. Bellard became depressed, too.

"Then I thought to myself, you're wasting your life just sitting there thinking that life is going to wait on you because you want to hide in this shell. Because you feel that you're ugly." 

Bellard says she would ask her husband to tell her she was beautiful, but through this, she realized she had to learn to accept his words. 

"Make me glow," she would tell him. "And he was like, 'I'm making you glow. You're just not receiving it. How can I keep giving you something you're not willing to accept?"

Later in the interview, Bellard talks about undergoing chemotherapy, which caused her skin to change and her hair to fall out. At that time, she didn't feel beautiful anyway, she says.   

"He said, 'Well if you're going to continue to act like you don't love yourself, you're going to constantly end up in this hospital bed.' And it actually was the truth."  

Eventually, Bellard learned to open up to the love that those were trying to give her. She removed negativity from her life and made it a point to stop letting others bring her down. Through social media, (Bellard has over 112 thousand Instagram followers to date) Bellard was able to inspire others and build her own confidence, too. Actor Michael B. Jordan even reached out to encourage Bellard to keep fighting. 

"This platform is just a platform to tell women that they can still be beautiful no matter what skin they're in. No matter what color, not matter what blemishes. Lupus made me love myself even more. Now, I feel the most beautiful and the most strong when I'm sick — in the hospital. For you, to get any better, you have to fight it. And to fight, you have to be strong. And so in that moment, I do become strong. And I do become beautiful, because I'm sitting there like, 'OK girl, we're about to fight this.'"

Finally, Bellard poses the questions: "How is lupus supposed to look? How is beauty supposed to look?" She adds that though society may make people feel like they have to look a certain way, we're all beautiful — and there's no time limit on us discovering just that. 

"You guys are beautiful. Beautiful in your own skin. Beautiful internally. Love yourself ... You better sizzle."

Check out more from Bellard's interview below:

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