A New Zealand woman born with a rare medical condition that has left her unable to smile has been signed to a modeling agency.
Tayla Clement, 24, will flaunt her natural “resting bitch face” to inspire others thanks to Zebedee Talent, a “revolutionary model agency representing people with disabilities, visible differences, alternative appearances & LGBTQIA talent.”
The Paralympian and motivational speaker shared the news on Instagram. “I’m super excited to take my purpose of being the empowerment, inspiration and change I needed when I was younger, to a whole new level,” she wrote.
Clement was born with a rare 1 in 4 million congenital incurable condition called Moebius syndrome, which affects the muscles that control facial expression and eye movement.
Due to the unusual neurological disorder, Clement is unable to crack a smile and was bullied throughout her childhood. At age 12, frozen-faced Clement underwent a “smile operation,” in which doctors transplanted soft tissue from her thigh to her face in an effort to restore her smile.
However, the procedure failed, leaving Clement with a swollen and bruised face.
“For 4 years after this surgery I endured even more bullying, it wasn’t just being called ugly or disgusting anymore, people would bring plastic bags to school and tell me to put them over my head because no one wanted to see me,” Clement explained. “I got pushed down hills, I even got ignored by teachers … all because I couldn’t smile or had no facial movement.”
She has shared that her affliction and the constant bullying caused her such distress that she attempted suicide six times before she turned 18 years old and was officially diagnosed with severe clinical depression and anxiety with PTSD and dissociative attacks.
Clement grew up playing sports and swimming but quit for a period of time due to her mental health struggles. Her calling came when she was contacted by Para Athletics of New Zealand.
Clement, who has a club foot due to her condition, jumped back into sports wholeheartedly, and eventually set the No. 1 shot put throw at the Victorian State Championships in Melbourne in 2018, the Daily Star reported.
The next year, she competed at the New Zealand National Championship, where she threw a distance of 8.28 meters, shattering the world record in the F43 classification.
She has since taken up public speaking to inspire others who suffer from facial abnormalities and shares inspiring messages to her more than 23,600 Instagram followers.
“I now know I was born to stand out,” Clement told Jam Press. “It’s not always been easy,” she lamented. “I’ve spent many years hating my smile, wishing I had a ‘normal’ smile, wishing I just didn’t exist because that seemed easier than being alive, but by some miracle, I’m still here.”
“I hope you know, that no matter what, YOU can be, do and achieve anything in this life … you are here for a reason, don’t squish your dreams, achieve them,” Clement emphasized.