Jeyza Gary: My Identity Cannot be Doubted

If there was anyone else who was supposed to be the first model with ichthyosis then they would have been, but I am that person. It’s me.

Jeyza Gary is a confident, unapologetic, and upbeat twenty-two year old model who has been featured in Vogue Italia, Target fashion campaigns, and NY Fashion Week. With a rare skin condition called ichthyosis, Jeyza refuses to let anything but who she is define her. “I have never looked at myself as Jeyza with ichthyosis. I have always looked at myself as Jeyza,” she says. “I honestly feel like I would still be the same Jeyza if I didn’t have ichthyosis.”

Ichthyosis is a rare skin condition where the skin dries, thickens, and sometimes sheds. Jeyza explained how, throughout elementary school, her mother would come in at the beginning of the year to explain this to the class and to explain that she was not different. Jeyza recalls being explained to the class and the message that this sent to her subliminally. “I’m so grateful for my mother supporting me, but the fact that she had to do this every year made me sad. Nobody else’s mom was coming in on the first day of class to explain their child. This made me feel on the outside, but on the outside of school, I was just Jeyza. I didn’t need to be explained. I was just me, but at school, it was different” Jeyza continued.

Jeyza is lifting her hand into her face and leans into a wall, and looks at us as if someone is telling her a secret. She wears a peach, spaghetti strap tank top. And vinyl records hang on the wall behind her.

“Like - I remember one day when I was in P.E, and we were playing with one of those huge, colorful parachutes. There was this one kid who just kept picking at me, and he wouldn’t stop. Then, all of a sudden, the P.E teacher calls me into the middle of the circle. She starts crying and telling the class how I am beautiful and how I should not be bullied. This was support I guess, but again, it made me so sad that she had to do that. Those were difficult times so I don’t dwell on how that part of my life makes me feel because I’m always trying to think about what is positive. Like - why would I think about that? I don’t.”

Jeyza explained how these experiences made her very disinterested in the exhausting act of conforming to her peers. She became more focused on looking ahead and moving forward.

“When I got into high school, I just kind of let go, and I noticed that this confidence attracted people. They wanted to be friends with me. When I was 17, my friend told me that I should start modeling. I didn’t really think anything would come of it, but I sent my headshots to some agencies anyways, and after some time, I was able to get signed to my first agency. I remember I was like - me? I thought it would be difficult with ichthyosis.”

Jeyza stretches her arms out to us, and tilts her head to the left. She smiles amiably.

However, it turns out that this difference, along with her optimistic attitude and talent, is what opened the door for Jeyza.

“I’ve been modeling ever since then, and my hope is to be a full-time model who can change unrealistic and unrelatable expectations of beauty within the modeling industry. I want it to be more accepting.”