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Image: Talia Castellano, teenager with cancer who became a CoverGirl model
Desiree Castellano
Cancer patient Talia Castellano appeared on "Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and became an honorary CoverGirl while receiving treatment.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/18/2012 12:43:01 PM ET 2012-10-18T16:43:01

Plenty of people have a hard time thinking positively about a bad situation. But 13-year-old Talia Castellano isn’t one of them. Diagnosed with cancer when she was 7, the teen has built a strong Internet following through her video makeup reviews and tutorials over the past year.

Despite getting news this summer that her cancer had spread, she has spent the last few months planning a grand redesign of her bedroom, and living her dream to appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

The popular host then helped another of Castellano’s dreams come true.

“I’m a CoverGirl,” DeGeneres told the excited teen on Sept. 12. “And CoverGirl heard your story and they want to make you an honorary CoverGirl. And they also want to give you something.”

“Oh my God,” exclaimed the teen, shedding fresh tears as she spotted a giant CoverGirl-style portrait of herself, complete with CoverGirl written across the top. (Talia's CoverGirl portrait has since begun to go viral online.)

And if this surprise, along with the trip to Los Angeles from her home in Florida, wasn’t enough, DeGeneres sent Castellano to the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas where she was able to interview the likes of Ryan Seacrest, Usher, Demi Lovato and Gwen Stefani.

Since then, the talented teen has had time to reflect on her adventures.

Image: Talia Castellano, teenager with cancer who became a CoverGirl model meets Usher
Desiree Castellano
Meeting of the talents: Newly dubbed CoverGirl Talia Castellano greets R&B star Usher in Las Vegas.

“I met so many celebrities and had so much fun and I wouldn’t take it back for the world,” she said in a vlog posted on her YouTube channel on Oct. 11.

“She loves the camera, loves an audience and fits right in in the entertainment world,” her mother Desiree Castellano told TODAY.com. “She tells me all the time that she misses Ellen’s studio and wants to get better so she can do more there. I think she was born to be a star.”

Tough recovery
TODAY.com profiled Castellano back in August after she posted a touching video explaining that her cancer returned and spread to her bone marrow.

Story: Terminal cancer patient, 12, inspires with viral makeup tutorials
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“I know it’s a lot to take in. Right now I am leaning to not doing [the treatment] because I don’t want to go through that,” she said in the video posted Aug. 7. “The chances of not surviving are fewer than surviving. If we even find a match, if my body rejects it then I am screwed, I went through all that crap for nothing.”

Since then, she has spent a great deal of time in an out of the hospital, receiving chemotherapy and treating the side effects that come along with it. Her most recent round of chemo was deemed mostly successful, shrinking the tumors in Castellano’s chest 75 percent.

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Through it all she has kept up with her beauty videos, previewing “dramatic fall smoky eyes,” and reviewing “the best of Urban Decay.”

Built around her bubbly personality, her vlogs show a confident teen who intersperses her love of makeup with updates on her overall health. Her YouTube channel has more than 250,000 subscribers and her videos regularly draw between 70,000 and 165,000 viewers, with more than 19.5 million video views total.

“The first round didn’t make me lose my hair at all, but they say about the second round that it just gets thin,” said Castellano on her Oct. 11 vlog. “Hopefully my eyelashes don’t thin out — oh, I’m going to miss my eyelashes.”

Underscoring the fragility of her condition, Castellano had to cut short her trip to Las Vegas after spiking a fever on her second day there. She went on to spend five days in the hospital, and flew home to Orlando only to return with a fever to a local hospital two days later.

She’s now been in the hospital for 18 days, though her mother hopes that release papers will be signed on Thursday. They then plan to immediately drive to a Gainesville hospital so she can receive an infusion of her own stem cells and shore up her depleted immune system.

Image: Talia Castellano
taliajoy18 / YouTube
Talia Castellano showed her viewers how to create "fire eyes" in a video she posted on June 24.

Her viewers, many of whom are cancer patients as well, often leave supportive messages, encouraging the teen to keep up with her vlog.

“Don’t be sad about your lashes! Or your hair, your are sooo beautiful [sic]. I’m subscribing to you and will be checking in often,” viewer Shanykristy commented on the Oct. 11 update video.

“I just wanted to say that your attitude towards life is so beautiful, especially in your situation. Keep chuggin girl! You are so fun to watch and I really trust your opinion,” commented Carlyrox007 on the Urban Decay video.

Also helping her get through the latest hospitalization is her family’s plan to renovate her room, with the help of local furniture stores and volunteers. They plan to incorporate plenty of storage for the teen’s vast array of beauty products, and put the CoverGirl portrait signed by dozens of celebrities at the Las Vegas music festival front and center on the wall.

“She still doing her videos from her hospital bed,” her mother said. “That’s what motivates her, that’s what makes her happy. She so often says to me, ‘My subscribers want me to do more videos and I want to do that for them.’ That’s what keeps her going, I believe.”

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Photos: 'A Shade Of Red': One lipstick, many women

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  1. 'A Shade Of Red'

    Photographer Alyson Fox’s most recent project, "A Shade Of Red", is a book with more than 100 photographs of women - old women, young women, friends, family members, co-workers, sisters and grandmothers - with one common thread: all were photographed wearing the same shade of red lipstick.

    Some of the women had never worn bright red lipstick before, and many had never been professionally photographed before. Fox, who is based in Austin, Texas, found most of her subjects through word of mouth, as news of the project spread.

    “I didn’t know what my subject was going to look like or what my backdrop would be,” Fox told TODAY.com. “I would just show up at my subject's personal space. I would spend no more than an hour. I didn’t want it to be a staged shot, I was really going for something raw. I would just show up with a tube of lipstick.”

    The end result is an arresting and frank portrait of a group of women, from Texas to New York to Florida, which celebrates the individuality which shines through a communal shade of lipstick.

    Ruby:

    Some of the younger portrait subjects were captured wearing lipstick for the very first time. “Ruby at the time was 9 years old,” said Fox. “She's not the youngest, she's the second youngest, but I really captured this look that was well beyond her years. She was incredibly comfortable in front of the camera.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Joy

    The photographer strove to capture the women in as natural a way as possible. This picture of Joy, a friend’s grandmother, was the last photograph Fox snapped that day. “We went outside and she just bent down and scooped up this cat and I just shot it at the right moment.” Fox remembers. “I just loved it. This particular cat actually passed away two weeks after I photographed the picture.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. April

    When it came time to choosing a lipstick for the project, Fox had no specific type in mind but she knew she wanted it to be a drugstore brand. “I wanted it to be something that everyone could afford and to me this is kind of about an everyday woman, a community of women so it just felt right being a simpler lipstick.” So Fox went to a Walgreens and headed to the beauty aisle. “I had 6 tubes in my hand. I strictly picked it on the name of the shade: [Revlon’s] ‘Certainly Red’ really struck a chord with me. I bought one tube.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Mimi

    All the women in "A Shade Of Red" were photographed in their own space. “Mimi was photographed in her bedroom,” photographer Alyson Fox tells TODAY.com. “We talked about childhood stuffed animals.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Kaylan

    “Kaylan was shot in her apartment with her sister Laura”, Fox said. “I was immediately drawn to the patterns in her space and on the couch. I first met her at Lamberts, a restaurant in town [Austin, Texas]. She was our waitress.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Jessica and Sally

    The women featured in "A Shade Of Red" all had different reactions upon seeing their portraits. “I had some women who were like ‘You know, you really captured like, the defensive side of me’, and then they examined themselves a little bit differently which was interesting to hear,” Fox said. The two sisters featured in this photograph, “loved theirs, and actually asked for their image to give to their mom for Mother’s Day.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Mary

    Most of the subjects in "A Shade Of Red" were arranged through word of mouth, but Mary was an exception. Photographer Alyson Fox explains: “I was in Martha, Texas on vacation. She walked into the restaurant where we were having breakfast. She had this great pink vest and these blue glasses and I thought 'This is what I want to be like when I’m older.' I introduced myself and the project, and she invited me back to her daughter's house and I walked over and we chatted for a good hour and a half. I got to see her paintings and I got to hear about her studying art in the '40s. It was really fascinating.” (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Beatrice

    For Fox, talking to the women was just as important to the project as shooting the pictures. It was important to her capture something of the essence of the woman, her history, her narrative. “I just talked the whole entire hour and just photographed the women as we started to get to know each other,” she explains. Beatrice, the woman photographed in this picture, owns a silkscreen company and has recently moved to California. “When I look at each portrait I have a little bit of history or something personal in each woman.”

    For more information on "A Shade Of Red" click here.

    (A Shade of Red/Alyson Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
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