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