Model: Nicole Rios
POTUS, Lupus, Fibromyalgia

I sometimes forget what it feels like to look pretty. I spend most of my days (and nights) changing from sweats to pajamas. I rarely do my hair or makeup because that takes energy I just don’t have. When I DO have to go somewhere, I meticulously plan out when I will shower, do my hair, do my makeup and what I will wear, leaving plenty of “rest” time in between each activity. It takes a lot mentally to get through the high pain days.

When I look in the mirror, most days I see a reflection of a person I don’t always recognize…someone tired and in pain. Even if I look okay, I usually don’t feel that way, and having an invisible illness is one of the most difficult things to explain to others. I have a list of chronic illnesses including Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), lupus and fibromyalgia. People have a very hard time understanding that someone can look fine but feel horrible on the inside.

On the bright side, part of my personal story is that I accepted the gift of a wedding I didn’t have to plan, prepare or even anticipate. Instead of just a standard surprise proposal from my now husband, Danny, he also had an entire wedding ready that day in hopes that it would eliminate the worry and stress that would make my health conditions worse. Believe it or not, we totally skipped our entire engagement and jumped right into one of the best days of our lives. My surprise wedding was a fairy tale secretly arranged by my beloved, Danny, and my mother…the guests, catering, flowers, decorations, music, photographers, an officiant, the rings…and even a perfectly fitting wedding dress! Our closest family and friends were all there and the love and support was palpable. Fast forward three years to the day of my Bold Beauty Project photography session. Being a part of this incredible project made me feel normal…MORE than normal. Even though I couldn’t walk without the help of crutches, not only did I feel beautiful, I felt empowered. I looked in the mirror and saw the person I feel on the inside. Having Danny by my side throughout the entire photo session made me feel like a princess. He looks at me on my worst days and makes me feel beautiful. But on that day, I loved being able to feel pretty in my own skin for him. The Bold Beauty Project is an opportunity I will NEVER forget, and I hope others can experience it as well.


Photographed by Kelly Mahoney