IMAGINE being told by doctors you have the worst acne they’ve ever seen. It was a devastating moment for Emily Keel, from Portsmouth, UK who spent her early twenties living with cystic acne, a condition that caused aggressive boil-like spots to erupt across her entire face. Although in recent months her skin has cleared drastically, the 25-year-old hopes sharing her story online will raise awareness about the impact acne has on people’s mental health. The emotional stress of living with the skin condition had previously led the personal trainer to quit her job at her local gym.
MIAMI’s most muscular personal trainer and social media star Rahki Giovanni is back. Training for at least two hours every day, Rahki can run a mile in under six minutes and do 43 deadlifts at 315llbs in less than 60 seconds. At 5 ft 6 and weighing 14 stone of pure muscle, the 27-year-old has undergone an astonishing body transformation - and she trains others to achieve the same. In Barcroft TV’s new three-part digital series ‘Miami Muscle’ viewers will see Rahki push her clients to the limit, as well as the challenges Rahki faces in her own life. In episode one, we meet Rahki’s friend and client Katherine, who wants to become the “best version” of herself after putting on 50lbs of baby weight. But will Rakhi’s regime be too hard for Katherine?
DEATH THREATS and acid attacks should be the last things you have to worry about on your wedding day. Unfortunately, this was the reality for Jared Choudhury, 26, when he married the love of his life Sean Rogan, 22, at a ceremony two-years ago in Walsall, UK. Due to safety concerns, the service was boycotted by Jared’s entire family after sinister threats were made by members of the local conservative Muslim community. Anxiety induced by fear of violence is a regular problem for Jared, who has spent the last 15 years conflicted about his sexuality and religion.
A DETERMINED TEENAGER with bionic arms champions diversity by showing the world it’s ‘cool to be different.’ Tilly Lockey, from County Durham, UK had both her arms amputated at 15 months old after contracting Group B meningococcal septicaemia. The 13-year-old was the first teenager in Britain to receive a pair of the 3D-printed bionic arms in 2016. Constantly in demand for her modelling work, Tilly extensively travels the world raising awareness for meningitis - the condition which almost took her life as a baby.
MEET the daring animal lover who spends his days cuddling tigers and playing football with a pride of lions. Armand Gerber, 51, runs the Iron Throne Predator and Wildlife Park in South Africa, with the help of his wife, Beatrice. With more than 80 hectares of beautiful land, Armand houses 10 lions, three tigers, two leopards and a cheetah – in addition to porcupines, warthogs and smaller cats. Armand hand-feeds lion brothers, Rufus and Brutus, who each weigh a colossal 550lbs. He rescued the majority of his animals from places with bad publicity and his biggest dream is to provide a forever-home for those most in need.
A Muslim woman is attempting to shake up the modelling industry with the world’s first ‘modest modelling agency.’ Shannie Hammouda, from London, UK, has combined her passion for fashion with her modest lifestyle to create UMMA Models. Launched in 2017, the London-based agency works predominantly – though not exclusively – with Muslim women, who want to get into modelling without compromising their modesty. The agency, which Shannie runs with her best friend and Head Of Casting Nadia Harrak, looks to support the models on its books, with special provisions such as being given time to pray or not being left alone with a man. UMMA currently has around 60 models on its roster and largely attracts “religious models,” including Jewish and Christian models.
A 20-YEAR-OLD man has a rare genetic disorder which makes him age faster. Harry Crowther, from Mirfield, West Yorkshire, was diagnosed with Atypical Progeria Syndrome (Non-Classical Progeria) when he was seven years old. The disease means that he ages prematurely and therefore suffers with similar ailments to elderly people, such as arthritis. Harry’s case is unique - he is the only known male in the world diagnosed with this form of progeria.
A YOUNG WOMAN born without arms has amazing makeup skills - using her feet. Kashmiere Culberson, from Dallas, Texas, has a rare birth defect, called Phocomelia syndrome, that caused malformations of her arms. The 21-year-old is wowing people with how she applies a face of perfect makeup and false eyelashes using her toes. Despite her condition, the vlogger can drive, cook and even do amazing makeup videos which she shares with her YouTube subscribers.
A teenager taking the dance world by storm wants to prove size is no barrier to being a good dancer. The most annoying thing that people can say to dancer Amanda LaCount is that she’s a good dancer…for her size. The 18-year-old, originally from Colorado but now living in LA, has already danced with major recording artists and been able to travel the world. And yet her dancing ability is still questioned all the time, simply because of her size. Since she first stepped into a dance studio, aged just two, Amanda LaCount has loved dancing. From ballet to tap, modern and hip-hop classes, by the age of 10 Amanda was taking over 15 classes a week; she had also she decided she wanted to become a professional dancer. Eight years later, Amanda has danced in Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” music video, appeared on stage at the Radio Disney Music Awards with Meghan Trainor, and most recently was a backing dancer for Lizzo at Coachella. But as a plus size dancer Amanda has had to get used to her dance ability being questioned at every step of her career.
A THROUPLE from Baltimore are proving that no judgement can come between love, despite being told their relationship is a sin. Katie, 33, and Luis Simbala, 36, have been married for 13 years after meeting at the church where they both performed as musicians. Then Katie met Raquel Martinez, 26, in 2012 – and their connection was instant. They enjoyed a platonic relationship for two years before sharing a kiss at Raquel’s 21st birthday party. The three now live together as a polyamorous ‘throuple’ despite criticism from their church and members of their families.
A WOMAN has taken her obsession with mermaids so far that she swims in a tail - and believes that she is a real-life mermaid. Cassia ‘Sia’ Shells lives in Toronto, Canada with her fiancé Adrian. Her love for the mythical sea creatures since childhood, where she collected mermaid dolls. The 29-year-old says she relates to mermaids on a personal level, and in fact she believes that she is a mermaid herself.
A HIGH-FLYING acrobat who lost her legs due to frostbite is teaching others to fly with her own circus school. Aerial silks performer Erin, 39, began an accessible training academy for mixed-ability students after losing both her lower legs to frostbite in 2014. After getting lost in the woods near her home in Kingston, Ontario, a police dog found her six days later in the freezing cold, unconscious and fighting for her life. Doctors were forced to amputate her damaged feet and part of her lower legs. The 39-year-old admits she struggled with depression after the surgery.
DESPITE being born without any sex organs, an 18-year-old girl remains confident about dating. Jyoti was born ‘intersex’ – something she defines as ‘not having the typical binary sex organs or parts’. Jyoti started to develop as a boy in utero for around 12 weeks before the process suddenly stopped – since then, she has identified as female and has taken oestrogen since her early teens. Residing in Hopkins, Minnesota, Jyoti has never let her condition hold her back – recently graduating from high school and attending college in the fall, she is now regularly dating. And Jyoti seems to take it all in her stride, preferring to be upfront and tell her dates about her condition early on in their conversations.
PARENTS of two transgender children say they are not pushing an agenda, but instead supporting their kids with acceptance and love. James, 11, and Olivia, 7, live with their parents, Ben and Sara, in Berkeley, California. The family are sharing their story with the hope of normalising the narrative surrounding trans children.
A YOUTUBER has broken over 200 bones due to a rare genetic condition that makes his bones as fragile as glass. Bladen Pietro, otherwise known as Bastrin, was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a genetic disorder that prevents the body from building strong bones, also called brittle bone disease. Despite his condition, the 21-year-old YouTuber, from North Carolina, started his own YouTube channel nine years ago to inspire others and today, he has over 460K subscribers. Bladen says that even though he has broken almost every bone in his body, he won’t let his condition stop him from being active and living life to the fullest.
AFTER years of bullying, a young artist and drag performer who refers to herself as a ‘cyberpop alien’ has left her past behind and embraced her unique style. Tori, 24, has combined her love of Japanese Harajuku fashion with her passion for drag culture, video games, and horror movies to craft a personal style unlike any other. The graphic designer, who originates from Raleigh, North Carolina and now lives in Atlanta, even creates her own custom pieces which she pairs with her eclectic wardrobe and makeup skills to create her looks.
AN INTER-ABLED couple have revealed how their life of ‘shared experiences’ has made their relationship stronger than most, even in the face of judgement and ignorance from others. Max Stainton, 28, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, met his fiancée Candy Parfitt, 29, three years ago when she became his PA at work, and they have since developed a unique bond. The Londoners are to be married in September, and say that Candy’s dual-role as Max’s carer and partner has enriched both their lives, rather than hindered them. Candy even supported Max on his ambitious project to become the first disabled person to reach Mount Everest Base Camp on horseback – a feat they accomplished together in April 2018.
A WOMAN born without hands and short legs is showing the world that self-love comes in all shapes and sizes through inspiring others to celebrate their bodies. Chassidy 32, was born with Tetra-Amelia syndrome – an extremely rare congenital disorder that causes the complete absence or malformation of limbs. Throughout Chassidy’s life, she’s dealt with people staring and laughing at her, but instead of feeling insecure – she glams herself up to stand up to the haters.
TWO BEST friends have used their teen years to transform themselves into almost identical fitness model Barbies. Julia and Sofia, both 20, met at age of six and are now regularly mistaken for twins, having shunned the traditional blonde look so many of their Swedish peers have embraced. The Stockholm stunners, who say they are “sisters by heart,” dyed their hair black, visit the gym six days a week, and have enhanced their facial appearances with the use of fillers, which plump up their lips and fill out their cheeks.
A YOUNG woman with a massively swollen leg, and recurring life-threatening infections, has started a ground-breaking treatment to help her lead a better life. Arianna Faro, from Wilmington, Massachusetts was born with Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, a rare congenital disorder which causes Arianna’s right leg to be grow to double the normal size and be mottled with agonizing lesions. She frequently suffers infections which turn into sepsis and threaten to end her life. The 28-year-old woman has endured more than 50 surgeries and spent most of her teenage years in a hospital bed. The doctors at Boston’s Children’s Hospital have decided to make Arianna the first American to receive the ground-breaking treatment which they hope will shrink her leg, end the recurring life-threatening infections, and give Arianna the new lease of life she desperately needs. She has now been on the new medication for three months. The pioneering medical treatment, traditionally used to treat forms of cancer, has so far proved to be successful, allowing Arianna to become pain-free for the first time after her condition started affecting her groin causing incredible pain when she was 14 years old.
A COUPLE with a 37-year-age gap, who get mistaken for a grandmother and granddaughter, tied the knot in spite of the judgement they face. Julia, a 24-year-old YouTuber and singer met political pundit Eileen, age 61, on Tinder a year ago. Their genuine love won over family and friends and the couple decided to take the next big step – a life-long commitment to each other. Celebrating the beginning of their new life together as wife and wife, the newly-wed couple said that the age gap has never been an issue and added: “Love is love. We have as much right as everybody else to be happy, to get married and to celebrate our love.”
A KOOKY couple have spent three years growing an idyllic family of “plastic children”. Childhood sweethearts Madeline and Malachi Dressel, both aged 35, are obsessed with collecting all things vintage. Their home in South Carolina is filled with antique furniture, appliances and decorations. But the thing that stands out the most is their impressive collection of vintage dolls. Since starting their unlikely hobby, they have acquired over 200 dolls, including 30 life-sized dolls.
LOS ANGELES is home to numerous subcultures, but none quite as vibrant as a group of Japanese fashion enthusiasts that include a “90s toy-loving rainbow monster” and a “Kawaii unicorn prince.” Sean, Monique and Kaiiya are from LA area who all share a passion for ‘Harajuku’ fashion – named after the famous district in Tokyo where a colourful alternative style developed.
A WOMAN, who is the same height as an LA parking metre, hopes to become one of the world’s biggest comedians. ‘Crippled’, ‘midget’, ‘disabled’, Lila Hart has heard them all. The 27-year-old was born with Spina Bifida and Scoliosis, undergoing seven major surgeries before the age of 14, and is just 4 foot 6 tall. But while these words used to make her cry, she’s now reclaiming them. In her comedy sets Lila uses the same words that used to make her cry, to make other people laugh. The stand-up comedian says the reason she is now so confident is precisely because of the difficulties she underwent in her earlier years.
DESPITE being told by doctors she would ‘just be a pair of eyes’ a young girl is defying odds and following her dream to act and sing. Maddison Sherwood has been using a wheelchair since the age of two, she cannot breathe unaided and needs 24-hour care due to her rare muscle and respiratory condition. The 10-year-old from East Leake, UK has an extremely rare condition called spinal muscular atrophy with respiratory distress type 1 (SMARD1). It is thought she is only one of between 40 to 60 known cases worldwide.