TODAY   |  September 17, 2012

Acne-faced teen: ‘Unbelievable’ modeling at Fashion Week

Cassandra Bankson became a viral sensation after she turned her struggle with severe cystic acne into an inspiring YouTube video showing her makeup secrets. The teen tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie that walking the runway at New York City’s Fashion Week was so exciting she wanted to give someone a bear hug.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:11 who turned her struggle with acne into a lesson in confidence. now it's taken her all the way to the caught walks at fashion week in new york city . we'll talk to cassandra in a minute but first how she got her.

>> probably the most nerve racking thing i can do, probably my biggest insecurity. this is my face.

>> over 12 million people have seen the inspiring youtube video of teen model cassandra bankson revealing her secret under all the makeup, a struggle with severe cystic acne .

>> i always carry everything that i do down my neck just because, well, i have acne there.

>> what started as a tutorial in makeup soon became a lesson in grace and courage as we learned cassandra had been a victim of high school bullying because of that acne.

>> having the feedback from other peers and students at my school was really kind of self-traumatizing and put me into kind of a reclused isolated state. hey, everyone.

>> but as support for kazcassandra grew, so did her confidence.

>> well, confidence is beauty essentially. you can't have one without the other.

>> in the last two years cassandra has posted hundreds of videos in an effort to help other teens find their definition of beauty.

>> today i wanted to bring you an acne update. pleased with my skin. the best it's been in a long time. as you can see, i still have some issues down here.

>> and now besides being be a inspiration, she can add cat walk model to her resume. just last week cassandra was asked to walk in new york fashion week's for boy meets girl . designer stacy iger was not even aware of her story when she was cast.

>> i did not know her. i was looking for confident women. for meekah sandra stood out because of her vibe, because of her look.

>> and now thanks to cassandra we know what's in fashion this week, confidence. cassandra bankson is with us this morning.

>> good morning.

>> nice to see you vut your stuff.

>> it was unbelievable. like this is happening to me and it's like wow.

>> did you feel nervous?

>> expecting a little bit of nervousness but i think it was more like i wanted to dance or bear hug somebody.

>> and i know you've modelled before but this had to be special.

>> this really was. you know, my preferred medium is probably print. this was, you know, cast through an online search for modeling but this is new york fashion week.

>> is it right that the designer didn't even know your struggle with acne, hire had had you based on your beauty and poise along.

>> if you want to call it that, thank you very much.

>> that must have made it particularly special.

>> since it was an online casting i didn't have to fly out for the auditions so it made it much easier.

>> last time you were here your youtube, the video had 6 million hits. now you have how many?

>> 12.

>> 12 million hits. are you surprised how much it has resonated?

>> i really am. i filmed this thinking that maybe i could speak to one or two people and that i would get the same hate and commentary that i got in high school , and first off, a million views is ridiculous but 12.

>> and you have a youtube channel . you have 45 million hits on that.

>> around, yes.

>> but even more everything that you've received from this which has been so overwhelmingly positive, i understand that there were negative comments leading you to want to shut it all down.

>> the first experience i had was in school, i basically decided to run away from my problems, and i overcame kind of that issue, but i found some other things online and just that negativity and for a moment i did take a step back and said i can't do this anymore. i'm not going to deal with this.

>> people can be incredibly mean on the internet.

>> i think so. it's kind of like that shield, you know, being anonymous, but that was kind of a step. i've run away from my problems before, can't do that again but i'll have to continue what i'm doing, because even if everyone doesn't enjoy it i think someone does, and that's what matters.

>> as we mentioned in the piece this, started out as a lesson this makeup but it's something a lot deeper. it's more than skin deep

>> i hope sfloe what is your message?

>> i think there's a lot of message and the first one is beauty is confidence. again, you cannot have inner beauty or confidence without having -- i'm sorry, you can't have outer beauty without having inner beauty , and i also think strength is basically knowledge essentially. you can't be strong unless you understand not only yourself but other people.

>> and where are you in this journey? i mean, have you gotten to the point where you're okay going outside without all your makeup on, or is that still something you're working towards?

>> i definitely am. if you would have asked me a year ago, never something i could do. i go out without makeup all the time, and i feel just as free and liberated as if i was wearing a full coverage foundation.

>> you're the definition of beautiful, inside and out.

>> thank you.

>> cassandra bankson, great to see your success. thanks for being