Rachel Sanoff
Updated Aug 15, 2016 @ 4:21 pm
Credit: sierraandrea99/Twitter

This is 17-year-old Andrea Sierra Salazar. Please note her flawlessness.

In February, she was suddenly diagnosed with cancer — specifically, stage 2 nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma — after discovering a lump on her neck.

The life-changing diagnosis meant Andrea had to miss school for hospitalization and treatments, which can clearly destroy a young person’s spirit. Her mother suggested that Andrea use all of her new free time to practice her favorite hobby: modeling.

Unreal beauty.

Then, Andrea started losing her hair to chemotherapy treatments. She told BuzzFeed News:

“Before chemotherapy I had always been a confident person, so when my hair started to fall out I would look in the mirror and I wouldn’t feel that confident about myself.”

Andrea’s mom reached out to photographers about her diagnosis and love of modeling, and many of them were quite excited to set up shoots.

One of those photographers was Gerardo Garmendia. Previously, Andrea said she had only felt confident modeling in a wig after losing her hair to chemo. She told BuzzFeed, “I didn’t feel confident enough to do a version without a wig, but then I realized that I had no reason to be ashamed of the way I looked, I should be proud.”

And that empowering attitude resulted in these photos and the fierce message accompanying them:


The photos have resonated with folks all over the world, and have been shared over 100,000 times. Garmendia said the theme, “princess without a wig,” was all Andrea’s idea.

Andrea is shocked that the photos have made such big waves on the internet. But consider the typical narratives we see about cancer in the media. Folks battling illness are often expected to hide and fall apart, but Andrea challenges all of that. It’s no wonder her photos have made such an impact.

Andrea’s hope was that these photos will reach the other girls getting treatment at the same hospital who are struggling to accept their changing appearance:

“I see all these little girls, and you can see it in their faces that they lose all confidence in themselves. 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.”