Twenty-two-year-old, Beatriz Pugliese, from São Paulo, Brazil, was born with a nevus birthmark that covers more than eighty percent of her skin. Although having undergone more than thirty operations, her rare condition has not held her back from living her life like any other average person.
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The rare skin condition known as a giant congenital melanocytic nevus affects just one in 500,000 people. Having been the target of harsh bullying as a child, Pugliese was called cruel names like “Dalmatian” and “Monkey.” Pugliese underwent her very first surgery at just six months old and her last in 2008, where she chose to decide against further procedures but instead to embrace her differences.
“My birthmarks make it easy to see that the skin is just an organ to protect what matters. I'm very happy to be the way I am,” stated Pugliese.
And it has done just that. Like her relationship of three years with boyfriend, Fellipe Koroboff, 24, who she met while watching the 2014 World Cup match that was hosted in Brazil. Pugliese states that her boyfriend has been a huge support system for her.
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“My birthmarks have never been a problem for him, he loves them and helps me to feel confident,” said Pugliese.
Along with her boyfriend, Pugliese’s family has also helped her overcome her insecurities. “My family always made sure that I didn't feel any different from other children… I have always had the freedom to wear any clothes that I want, and they never encouraged me to try to hide my skin from other people,” said Pugliese.
At birth, Pugliese’s birthmarks were so large that doctors were unsure how to treat them. Eventually, she was referred to Hospital das Clinicas, São Paulo, Brazil, where she has since undergone more than thirty surgeries.
“The doctors who took my case together with my parents thought it best that parts of my birthmark were removed because they were very large and the exposure to the sun is hazardous. They gave priority to the areas of greater risk like my arms and legs. The surgeries were done with skin grafts removed from my calf because that is where I have white skin. Then they removed parts of my birthmark and replaced it with the skin from my leg. The recovery lasted two-to-three months, where I would be kept in bed as it was too painful to walk,” stated Pugliese.
Despite her challenges, Pugliese hopes to one day inspire people to embrace the things that make them who they are and to be confident in their skin. And although while growing up she was teased for looking like a “monkey,” Pugliese hopes to one day work with the mammals, along with other animals.
“Nature fascinates me; all its details are so incredible that I could spend hours in a forest just enjoying it all. 'I love all animals and as long as I'm somehow attached to nature, I know I'll be happy,” stated Pugliese.