Model Caitin Stickels on Her Lucky Break and Why She’s More Than Just a Model with a Rare Syndrome

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Muses can be found in the most rarest of places. For Seattle-based model Caitin Stickels, who was born with traits of a rare chromosomal disorder called Schmid-Fraccaro, or Cat Eye Syndrome, her recent formal introduction into the fashion industry began via social media. That may not seem so rare in modern times, but for the 29-year-old artist and budding model, she never expected her Instagram posts to lead to a shoot with famed photographer Nick Knight for a stunning feature published in this month’s V Magazine

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Just like a modern day fairytale, Stickels was discovered by the man who has shot some of the most famous images and music videos of the 20th century. Speaking with NewBeauty, she describes how she landed her big break and what it's like to be chosen for her unique look. “He just stumbled upon me. It was just one of those happy accidents,” says Stickels. “He wrote to me and said he was inspired by what he saw and that he wanted to do something special with me and it just grew from there.”

What grew was a series of breathtaking photos that are now making headlines, with many news stories referring to Stickels as the model with Cat Eye Syndrome, a chromosome abnormality that affects many different parts of the body. The signs and symptoms vary but may include eye, ear, heart and/or kidney abnormalities. 

She says it’s a label she expects but it’s not entirely accurate: “I accept it in a sense that it’s easy to explain it that way, but what I have are traits of Cat Eye Syndrome. On one hand there’s part of me that wants to correct the little things, like I don’t have a cleft palette. There’s a reason I don’t have any surgery on my mouth. It’s just shaped differently, yes, but I don’t have a cleft palette. It’s more or so focused on my eyes. I have one functioning kidney. So there are things that I have that are more like traits of it.”

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As far as her future in the modeling world, the distinct beauty hopes she can transcend the labels and continue to create art without solely focusing on her unique features: “I don’t hide it, but I also don’t think it needs to be the highlight. I feel like me living, walking, breathing, existing without hiding is a statement in and of itself. I’ve always been open to people, if you look at me and you see something intriguing, go ahead and ask me about it. If you ask me about my eyes, I have no problem talking about it. I’ve been like that since I was a kid.”

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Her advice for anyone who is passionate about their dreams, but afraid to act because of what others might think is to just love yourself as you are and silence the haters. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” advises Stickels. “I believe we act as mirrors. Anything that people show you is really only a reflection of themselves. The way people react to you...it’s never really something to take too personally, because it’s something that they’re dealing with on the inside. That goes for both negative and positive attention, you don’t let either one get to you. Just love yourself and people will love you in return.”