Model: Carol Gilson
Rheumatoid Arthritis

From a small East Texas town, I moved to Austin to pursue education, art, and adventure. Plans changed and dreams altered when Rheumatoid Arthritis arrived in my mid-20s. An athletic body morphed to one that barely moved, wracked with pain. To get my life back, I had bilateral hip and knee replacements and spent countless hours learning to walk again.

In a hospital bed, I rewrote my dreams, determined to find meaningful life work. I wanted to help others move beyond their pain and limitations. While completing a master’s degree, I focused on Disability Studies and Neurobiology; through this lens, I learned the devastating impact trauma has on the body and mind. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy, a cutting-edge treatment for individuals impacted by anxiety, depression, PTSD, and chronic health issues from experiencing trauma.

Beauty as a social construct is in need of deconstruction so that the full palette of beauty is available to us. It’s a delight to be part of this project, challenging narrow confines of beauty imposed by society. I am proud to boldly bring beauty into question.

My look was inspired by the work I have done on all levels: emotionally, mentally, physically, professionally, and spirituality to be who and what I am today. My experience of rebuilding a broken body has required moxie, bravery, and boldness in order to do more than survive, but thrive. I have transformed through alchemy by embracing the magical combination of vulnerability, beauty, and strength.


Photographed by Debra Ellsworth