Cassandra Bankson’s acne was so bad that peers not only called her pizza face, but actually threw pizza at her. Hard to believe, I know, after looking at the above picture of her. Now, the 19 year old will strut the runway at Fashion Week. In an interview with NBC Today, the teen admits that amongst the jeers, “I was my worst critic, but having that feedback from other peers … was self-traumatizing and put me into kind of a reclused and isolated state. Makeup is kind of what helped me break out of that shell.”
No, this isn’t an advertisement for some miracle cure for blemishes. In fact, Bankson’s cystic acne is the same as it ever was, covering her face, neck, chest and back. But with a little makeup and some prompting from her boyfriend, a YouTube video of Cassandra applying makeup and sharing her struggles with acne-related insecurity have impressed the world and landed her a top spot in her dream profession.
“I was awkward – I didn’t fit in,” Bankson told Today.com regarding her high school years. After her schoolmates’ teasing became unbearable, the teen chose a private course of study, graduating from high school two years ahead of schedule. While studying at home, Bankson spent her time on “Internet research, learning about makeup, concealer and foundation, and which products worked best.” She told Today.com, “I could put those on and look like another person. All of a sudden I felt confident.”
With all of Bankson’s newfound success, one might wonder if beauty really is merely skin-deep. Was this girl only able to reach her dreams because she learned to cover herself up? In an interview with NBC Today, Bankson argues that “beauty is confidence, confidence is beauty. You can’t have one without the other.” Bankson goes on to describe makeup as the “gateway” for a woman to feel confident enough to overcome any insecurities they may have, so that they can ultimately feel beautiful with – or without – makeup.
In the interview, which can be viewed below, Bankson is poised and well-spoken, beaming with confidence. It is difficult to believe that this same girl, according to the Huffington Post, used to be called “Virus” by her classmates. “This is the most nerve-wracking thing I could do because it’s my biggest insecurity,” says Bankson in the clip’s opening. “I am going to show you what I look like without makeup. It’s awful.” She then proceeds to give step-by-step instructions on makeup application.
Bankson’s boyfriend had the idea to make a video. Bankson told the Post that “his support was so solid that he convinced her to make a YouTube video about applying her makeup to help others in similar situations.”
Others like Melissa Martin-Hughes, an 18-year-old senior from England. Martin-Hughes developed severe acne in junior high, and severe depression along with it. The Huffington Post reports that Martin-Hughes, a “‘brilliant and exceptional’ schoolgirl hanged herself in a park after spiraling into depression because of severe acne.”
Luckily for Cassandra Bankson, the story doesn’t end with her feelings in high school: “When I was younger, I was told by teachers that I should be a model – ‘You’re so tall.’ But all I saw was I was ugly.” Makeup – and a supportive boyfriend – helped launch Cassandra for her isolated state to a life of confidence. And to the runway.
Designer Stacy Igel, who hired Bankson after viewing her headshots online, told Today.com said she “liked how Cassandra’s look and walk jibed with the show’s bohemian style and its theme, ‘Forever Young,’ inspired by a Bob Dylan song.” Moreover, as an ambassador for anti-bullying group BullyBust, Igel was more impressed with Cassandra’s story. “I really liked Cassandra more for what she had gone through,” she said, noting that Bankson is “everything Boy Meets Girl stands for: young, fresh, innovative, out-of-the-box and girls who make a stand and are able to be influencers in the marketplace.”
Bankson plans to attend college and pursue modeling in the future.