Model For “The What’s Underneath Project” Challenges Beauty Standards

Melanie Gaydos is a fashion model – but she also has a rare condition called ectodermal dysplasia, which makes her bald.

In a recent interview for the “What’s Underneath Project,” a series of web videos that feature a diverse range of unconventional women and men talking about body image and style, Gaydos talked about her own experiences being judged for looking different.

“When I go on a photo shoot, if there’s other industry models there, they normally don’t really know what to make of me,” Gaydos said. “It’s difficult for me in the fashion world, because a lot of people think of me kind of as a gimmick: ‘Oh, she’s just being exploited for her differences.”

Gaydos’ condition affects her nails, teeth, hair and skin, giving her a unique look that often draws criticism.

“People have to talk to me to get to know me in order to understand where I’m coming from, or see where I’m coming from. It’s pretty difficult.”

Turning pain into strength

Creators of the “What’s Underneath” series, mother-daughter team Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, told that the project’s intent is empowerment, self-expression and inner beauty:

“By asking people a series of intimate questions about style, body image and self-expression, while simultaneously having them remove their clothing, we want to show people that true style is about the authentic person inside the clothes, their confidence, their spirit and their willingness to express themselves honestly.”

Mandelbaum said that Gaydos has turned her physical challenges into her greatest strength, as “she is now a fashion model thriving in NYC against all odds.”

When asked what her style says about her, Gaydos responded the way many “normal” young women would:

“Hopefully, that I am cool, comfortable and creative,” she said.

To see Gaydo’s full interview, visit the What’s Underneath Project’s


Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid/

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