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After putting up with nearly a decade of strangers staring at her and whispering about her, Giorgia Lanuzza finally decided to change the conversation.

The 24-year-old Brit, who has psoriasis, said in an interview with the Daily Mail that she had endured so much bullying from classmates and cruel comments from strangers that she began to feel like a “freak” and couldn’t even stand to look at herself in the mirror.

Psoriasis manifests in red, flaky patches of skin, which can be exacerbated by stress or heat. While many people only get outbreaks on some specific parts of their body, Giorgia says the painful patches cover almost 97 percent of her body.

She experienced her first psoriasis outbreak when she was 13 years old, shortly after her father was killed in a motorcycle accident.

“The condition is often triggered by trauma, and when I lost my dad I felt like the world had ended. We were so close when I was growing up, and I couldn’t take losing him,” she said. “Grieving was difficult enough. Then, when these flaky patches started appearing on my skin, I had no idea what was happening.”

Already heartbroken by the loss of her father, the psoriasis outbreak was devastating for a teenager who just wanted to be “normal.”

“People would stop and stare at me in the street,” she said. “My psoriasis looks like red, raised spots and people looked at me as if I was disgusting and they might catch something.”

Friends and even boyfriends would avoid touching her, worried about catching psoriasis themselves, even after she promised them it wasn’t contagious.

She tried to find a positive way to view the situation, thinking of her psoriasis as a way to stay connected with her father.

“I tried to think of [the patches] as reminders of my dad, as I’d got psoriasis after he died. That was a comfort, but it was still hard,” she said.

For years, Giorgia tried to conceal her condition, hiding it under long sleeves, pants and leggings. Earlier this year, she had to come home just two months into a planned six-month trip to Thailand because she could only safely spend about 10 minutes in the sun each day.

“I felt so self-conscious about the condition that it was ruining my life,” she said.

Shortly after her abbreviated vacation, Giorgia decided she was done with hiding. Inspired in part by Canadian model Winnie Harlow, who has vitiligo, a pigment condition that manifests in white patches on the skin, Giorgia began sharing photos of herself on social media with her skin — and her psoriasis — front and center.

Through her photos — which include shots of her in a multicolored bikini, posing in aviators and a crop top with friends and smiling selfies — Giorgia hopes to show that her condition doesn’t make her any less beautiful, and to encourage other people with psoriasis to embrace their bodies and beauty as well.

She plans to create a website and Facebook page called Different Skin, where people with skin conditions can share photos and be part of a community.

“Finally, I’ve come to terms with my skin and have realized that I am beautiful,” she said. “After all these years, I finally have confidence in my own skin I want to show other women that their ‘abnormalities’ could be their strengths.”

Giorgia joins a growing group of people who are using social media to spread awareness and increase acceptance of those with different appearances or rare medical conditions. In an age of airbrushing and Photoshop, her honest photos are a breath of fresh air, proving some selfies really are better than others.

(Images via Twitter.)