Women's Health

Lupus Advocate Jokiva Bellard's Journey to Feeling Beautiful After Diagnosis

Lupus Advocate Jokiva Bellard's Journey to Feeling Beautiful After Diagnosis

Learning to love your own appearance is a difficult thing to do in today's beauty-driven society. There are millions of dollars made off of people’s physical insecurities. Messages of beauty standards and expectations are plastered everywhere, from in-your-face plastic surgeons like Dr. Miami posting his celebrity surgeries for views, or more subtle messages, like Snapchat and Instagram filters that “perfect” the natural imperfections of the face. As hard as it is to love one’s own appearance, it is infinitely harder for someone who develops physical differences from a disease. Jokiva Bellard, an activist and person who lives with lupus, sheds light on these anxieties, and how to overcome them, in a beautiful piece for Allure.

Jokiva Bellard, draped in beautiful yellow fabric against a backdrop of varying shades of yellow cloth, explains her story with spliced scenes of her dancing and strutting in a carefree and confident way. Clearly and justifiably confident in her own skin, Bellard has come a long way in her self-esteem. She loves herself in her entirety and embraces her own beauty. But that was not always the case.

In fact, Bellard could not believe her ears when she heard the diagnosis: lupus. It’s a scary diagnosis, especially when the doctor explains that the autoimmune disease would cause her body’s immune system to attack its own internal organs and tissue. “I thought the world was going to end,” Bellard shares with Allure.

Bellard is not alone. Lupus, which is a difficult disease for doctors to diagnose because of its non-disease specific symptoms, is often found in young women, who range from 15 and 44. Approximately five million people in the world have some form of lupus. Bellard lives with DLE, or discoid lupus erythematosus, which is characterized as “a chronic skin condition of sores with inflammation and scarring favoring the face, ears, and scalp and at times on other body areas,” according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. This was a particularly distressing realization, because now she wasn’t just sick, but she would look different. To have so much change in such a short amount of time is overwhelming, especially when there is such a premium on people who exemplify societal beauty standards.

"I felt as if my identity had been stripped away from me when I first found out that I had it," Bellard says, continuing to say that people who saw her rashes would go out of their way to avoid being in her physical proximity, as though she were contagious. She tried to maintain strength, but cruelty and ignorance in others made it difficult.

Read on to learn more about how Bellard copes with the physical symptoms lupus brings.

Photo source: @_indianrosee