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At just 17 years old, Andrea Sierra Salazar is sharing a powerful message with the world: Bald is beautiful.
Salazar was diagnosed with stage 2 nodular sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma earlier this year and lost her once long, thick locks to chemotherapy treatment.
Her mother saw that she needed a distraction and encouraged Salazar to get back into modeling, a hobby she had enjoyed in younger years.
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Normally a confident teenager, Salazar was happy to dive back into modeling ... but only while wearing a wig.
“Like a lot of women, I took pride in my hair. Girls see their hair as one of their best attributes sometimes,” she said. “That was my mentality in the beginning so that was a big shock for me.”
But it's her most recent photo shoot, featuring Salazar without a wig, that have inspired so many and have her feeling more confident than ever.
“I shouldn’t be ashamed of my bald head and not having hair because that doesn’t define who I am as a person,” Salazar said. “The hair on my head or my eyebrows or my eyelashes; it doesn’t define (me).”
Andrea teamed up with photographer Gerardo Garmendia to create the dream-worthy photos that challenge and redefine the current standards of beauty.
“I told him that I wanted to have a photo shoot that was princess-themed, but without a wig,” Andrea said.
Twirling in a bright blue dress with a wide smile on her face, Andrea’s photos show that “cancer doesn’t stop (you) from being a princess,” as she had hoped.
“This photo shoot, the vibe and the feeling and the poses, was very different from anything I had ever done before,” she said. “I felt free. I felt happy. I felt so many emotions all at once.”
Salazar's ambitions reach beyond herself and her own emotional journey. Her inspiration for this shoot in particular, she told TODAY, is to inspire younger girls who may be going through a similar ordeal.
“Sharing those pictures, I thought girls wouldn’t be as scared anymore,” she said.
Her message is certainly resonating online, being shared widely across various social media platforms. But for Salazar, the most rewarding part is reading messages from people who share their own stories of cancer diagnosis and survival.
As for her own treatment, Salazar completed her last radiation session last week with plans to compete in her first beauty pageant this summer. Based on the response to this shoot, it seems like the whole world will be rooting for this proudly bald beauty!