Alba Parejo is a 16-year-old girl from Barcelona, Spain. She was born with a rare form of congenital melanocytic nevus, which is essentially a giant birthmark. Small melanocytic nevi are pretty common, but Alba’s condition occurs roughly once in every 500,000 births.
Large melanocytic nevus is not a hereditary condition. They are formed in the womb within the first 12 weeks of development, and they are caused by a defect during embryo development. The nevi are darker than the rest of the skin, sometimes they are covered in hair, and can have a smooth or a rough texture.
Alba has more than 500 moles all over her body. She also has a large birthmark covering her bottom, hips and thighs. Before she turned five, she already had 30 surgeries to remove some of the large nevus on her back. She now has large scars covering her torso and thighs.
Throughout her young life, Alba was constantly bullied. “While growing up, I realized people were staring at me because of my skin, which made me feel bad, strangers looked at me as if I was a monster,” Alba said. “Sometimes they laughed or said horrible comments like calling me a ‘Dalmatia’ or an ‘Alien,’ one person even asked me if I painted myself.”
Alba struggled with her condition a lot as a child, especially during those fragile middle school years. “It had a terrible effect on me, I was 13-years-old and just wanted to be normal. I spent whole days crying wishing I was someone else,” Alba said. “I was very embarrassed and ashamed to let people see my nevus and scars, because I was insecure about my body because of all the bad comments I had heard.”
Once, someone told Alba to not show her back to anyone because nobody wants a “misshapen girlfriend.” Despite all the mean comments Alba received, last year she decided that she was going to embrace her differences. She bared her back, all her moles, nevi and scars on Twitter.
Her post was retweeted over 1,000 times and got 1,700 likes. She thought that only her friends would see the post, but she ended up reaching a much wider audience. The response to her photos was incredibly positive.
Now people have reached out to Alba and told her they found inspiration in her story. This is turn, was positive reinforcement for Alba, and she was able to accept herself even more. It also gave her the courage to enter into a beauty competition.
“Since then I have won a competition to be the ‘face’ of a shopping center and these photos have been shown in the popular places where I live,” Alba said. Now, her face is plastered on billboards, buses and she is part of Anec Blau’s, a local shopping center, body-positivity campaign.
Now, Alba realizes that her condition is deeply rooted in her identity, and now she wouldn’t change anything about herself. “The nevus is my identity and thanks to it I have met lots of people who are fantastic and amazing,” Alba said.
Alba embraces her skin now and isn’t afraid to show it off. She’s bared it all on her Instagram account, and she’s not shy at all. She’s worked with some photographers to capture some very honest photos of herself. “I realize now that my skin is beautiful, special and unique,” she said.
Now, Alba hopes that her story and her photos will inspire others to embrace who they really are. “I feel much more body positive and am trying to make my disease more well-known in order to help other people,” Alba said.
Alba wants to keep going with her modeling career to continue inspiring others. “I feel very happy now, I show my disease as I love when people react positively, they think my body is fantastic and artist adroe my skin, they see it as art,” she said. “I love it when people tell me I have changed their life for the better, for that reason I was to keep showing myself.”
Now Alba ignores any negative comments, because she knows for the one person who is cruel to her, there are thousands more who are kind.
"When you're different, sometimes you don't see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn't... and as long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster,” Alba wrote. “You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are - what others say is irrelevant.”
We hope that Alba continues her inspirational modeling campaign, and that more girls like her will come out and embrace their bodies. Alba is a gorgeous girl, inside and out. She’s got a bright future ahead of her.