When 17-year-old Andrea Salazar was diagnosed with cancer, she struggled with the hair-loss that came along with her chemotherapy treatments; the aspiring model was self-conscious when attending photoshoots and made full use of a range of wigs.
“Before chemotherapy I had always been a confident person,” she told Buzzfeed News. “So when my hair started to fall out I would look in the mirror and I wouldn’t feel that confident about myself.”
But it wasn’t until one photographer, Gerardo Garmendia, heard about Andrea’s story and got in touch that the Texan realised that she shouldn’t be ashamed of her appearance.
“[At first] I didn’t feel confident enough to do a version without a wig, but then I realised that I had no reason to be ashamed of the way I looked, I should be proud.
“It’s not only about my outside beauty, it’s about the inside. That’s what really inspired the photoshoot without the wig.”
And the results truly are stunning; not long after the high school student had posted them to Twitter with the caption “Cancer doesn’t stop me from being a princess”, the photos had been shared more than 100,000 times.
“She was open and not ashamed or embarrassed to share that part of herself,” Garmendia added. “The way that she was coping with cancer was just very inspirational to me.
“I was happy to capture this stage of life for her and that she will have something beautiful to look back on even when the struggle was hard.”
Andrea hopes the photos will inspire other young cancer-sufferers, and show them that nothing can prevent them from living their dream.
“I want them to know that your hair or your physical attributes doesn’t define who you are – what really matters is your inner beauty, the way you treat others, and if you’re a kind person, that shows through,” she said.
“Cancer shouldn’t stop you from doing what you love. I want [people] to know that they’re beautiful on the inside, and I want to be an inspiration to them.”
Photos courtesy of Gerardo Garmendia.