Modeling is a way to exploit one’s body for all models, but for some it is also a way to reclaim it. Cancer survivor Erica Campbell, who watched her body change drastically as she underwent treatment, saw the later was a necessary step towards true healing.
“I am a stage four blood cancer survivor. March 28th of 2013 I was diagnosed,” Campbell told HelloBeautiful.
It was Campbell’s illness that ushered her into the world of modeling. “My first runway was a fashion show for a cancer awareness event,” she shared. This took place in 2014 as the rise of the body positivity movement was gaining visibility.
“I love being apart of such an amazing empowerment movement,” said Campbell. That movement led her to participate in the model search for CurvyNoire, a New York Fashion Week event hosted by MadameNoire and Maui Bigelow.
“I definitely like to be apart of movements like CurvyNoire any time I get a chance, and basically show young girls that I don’t look like what I have been through and that you too can do the same,” Campbell continued.
Media often depicts the woman struggling with losing her hair to cancer but there are many other physical manifestations it ignores. Working in an industry devoted to external beauty has provided Campbell with a platform from which to spearhead some uncomfortable conversations. She founded a movement called Feel Beautiful, Look Beautiful to make space to examine what it looks like to reckon with the parts of cancer that often don’t get talked about.
“Sometimes I feel unattractive. I feel unpretty. I feel, and it’s a strong word, but ugly at times,” admitted Campbell.
“I have hyperpigmentation with my face and I feel like a lot of times…I do wear makeup I wear foundation, I wear some type of covering on my face to hide those blemishes. So that was a result from the drugs, chemotherapy and the changes came after my battle with cancer. Over the last 2 ½ 3 years I feel like it has gotten worse. I was going back and forth to a dermatologist using creams trying to figure out how to lighten it up. I have Frontal fibrosis alopecia and with that type of alopecia it causes discoloration to the skin.”
As someone who had already had several complications during treatment the aftermath has been been especially harrowing for her. “I had so many ups and downs throughout my battle,” she said.
“With MRSA, shingles in and out of the hospital, and just the blood clots and the daily sickness and chemotherapy treatment…I went through a lot during the journey to overcome it. It Left behind scars on my chest from the port they used during chemo treatment. I have two scars cause one of the scars got infected by MRSA after a couple of weeks when it didn’t clear up, I ended up having an emergency surgery like 3 weeks after I got the port.”
In the end she was victorious, over what many physicians consider an automatic death sentence, but evidence of her illness remains present on top of and beneath her skin.
“Sometimes to this day, 6 years later, I deal with the internal scars. I have my days thinking about what I went through. It gets me emotional to this day.”
Modeling has positively impacted her relationship with her body and reinforced her belief in her right to take up space.
“Since I have been modeling I always been confident. I love my body I embrace my scars I embrace my curves my cellulite my stretch marks.”
Her career has “taken off” recently.
“I was 1 of 10 women selected nationally by DSW and Create and Cultivate during New York Fashion Week and I’m on their website for their Fall campaign that was truly a big blessing for me.”
She says she is just waiting on the next one.
“Whatever God has in store for me. I’m open to many more blessings.”