Six years ago, Talia Castellano was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops in the nerve tissue of children and infants. When aggressive treatments made her hair fall out, she opted not to wear a wig.
Instead, the young girl developed a fascination with makeup, developing the mantra "Makeup is my wig."
"When I put on my make-up I feel like I can embrace those features that I really like about myself. I feel if someone's looking at me, they're looking at my make-up, not looking at my bald head," she explains in one of her YouTube videos.
The combination of Talia's positive, energetic personality and her exceptional makeup skills have gathered her a dedicated following. Her YouTube videos — ranging from updates about her life to makeup tutorials have racked up 14 million views, 100,000 subscribers and earned her a spot on the Ellen show last month.
Impressive by any measure. Downright exceptional for a 13-year-old.
During her appearance on the popular talk show, the teen learned she had been selected as an honorary face for CoverGirl cosmetics, a brand as well known for its glossy advertising campaigns as its products.
Her lovely, smiling face now adorns her own glossy ad, which was released earlier this week.
But earlier in the summer, Talia learned something considerably more difficult. In addition to her neuroblastoma, the aspiring makeup artist has developed leukemia and her treatment options are limited.
As the Daily Mail reports, a costly, risky bone marrow transplant is the recommended avenue, although her body may not be able to handle the procedure after so many surgeries.
"I'm going to decide whether or not I want to do the bone marrow transplant, or whether or not I just don't do it and live the time I have remaining," she reveals to viewers in a recent blog while displaying strength rarely seen in people twice her age.
That time remaining ranges anywhere from four months to a year.Yet in spite of the gravity of her situation, Talia refuses to succumb to grief, saying she will continue her videos as long as she can.
She also chooses to see her cancer as both a "horrible thing" and a "gift."
"I've gotten so many benefits from [cancer]. Having a YouTube channel, having to inspire people and having people look up to me... I adore, I love make-up, using it as my wig... it's amazing... the journey of having cancer was amazing. But every journey has an end," she says.
Talia is not the first young girl with an unusual condition to be used as a model for a major cosmetic or fashion brand. In July, a ten-month old with down syndrome became the face of a new swimwear ad campaign for DC Kids.
If only more cosmetic and fashion companies would seek out this sort of inner beauty and strength to represent girls and women.