Thirty year old Bailey Pretak from Wilcox in Pennsylvania, was born with lamellar ichthyosis, a genetic disorder that means her skin constantly cracks and sheds. The amazing performer cruelly mocked for her dry ‘scaly’ skin condition is defying bullies by winning beauty pageants. Bailey revealed that if she doesn’t exfoliate and moisturise her face, hands and feet on a daily basis her skin will crack and leave her in pain.
At school, she was called ‘scaly Bailey’ and children who feared she was ‘contagious’ stopped playing with the same toys as her. She was excluded from a lot of activities growing up and only began to ‘come out of her shell’ thanks to acting, singing and dancing. Bailey started entering beauty pageants two years ago, and has since won the titles of Miss Pennsylvania, Ultimate Queen and Miss Congeniality-an award voted by fellow competitors.
She’s now travelling around the US, using her performances as a platform to educate others about ichthyosis and raise money to help further research for a cure. Bailey, a bank teller, said, “As a child I felt very excluded and left out, I wasn’t always included as people were afraid of my skin. In kindergarten, parents wanted kids moved of out my class or not to touch the toys I played with because they thought I was contagious and there was a stigma similar to leprosy.
I’ve overheard people calling me ‘scaly Bailey’ and other kinds of comments like that I’ve been sunburned. Because of my experiences growing up, I never thought a person with ichthyosis could be a beauty queen, you get stereotypes in your mind about what one looks like.
I tried it and in my first year, I was Miss Pennsylvania at Pure International Pageants and a year later I was awarded a title for my volunteering, also I won Miss Congeniality. “I went from being the shy, insecure girl to being on stage modelling, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. The arts are a huge thing for me, they brought me out of my shell.
On stage people see the characters I perform, the music I sing or dance to and don’t judge me by my skin. I’m using my performances to educate others, the more people who understand the condition, the less they fear it. I find it so fulfilling to do, I take the hardships from my own life and see them as a blessing to share with other families.”
Bailey added, “I shower and lotion my full body once a day to break down the scaling, If I forget to lotion one of my arms or the bottom half of my legs, I know I will regret it a few hours into the day when my skin starts to tighten and cracks.
Summer is easier for me as it’s so humid and my skin looks better, but in winter my hands and feet crack all the time sometimes a quarter of an inch deep. Because the skin on my hands and feet crack, it can be especially hard to walk and dance with this condition. But I’ve learned to deal with the pain the best I can and work through it.”
While growing up Bailey suffered nasty comments due to strangers’ misconceptions about the appearance of her skin. Bailey said, “At times, I have felt very alone and like an outcast, but I’ve never given up.” To combat her insecurities Bailey found her confidence through performance classes and now she’s an avid actress.