Each one of our models has their own story. I met with María, our March La Modelo del Mes, who wanted to share her story with me.
First of all, how are feeling today?
I am very good!
What do you do here in Madrid?
I am an Iyengar yoga instructor. Right now, I give classes to children at an elementary school. They seem to enjoy it.
Are you originally from Madrid?
I am actually from Palencia, in Castilla-Leon. It's not a very well-known place. To give you an idea, it’s in the northern part of Spain.
What brought you here then?
The “official” reason is that I came to study Anthropology. I was also motivated to come here because I was a singer in a music group. We were doing pretty well, we won a music contest in Castilla-Leon and even received an offer to do a soundtrack for a film. In the end, everyone ended up leaving Madrid and I stayed here. That was the end of my group and my music career.
Do you still sing?
Well, I sing in my car and in the shower. Unfortunately, that's about it.
All of our models come from different backgrounds and walks of life. Each has a personal story to share, what's yours?
I wanted to do this interview to maybe help someone who is going through a similar situation. I hope my story can alleviate some confusion or suffering for someone. In 2010, I was poisoned by mercury when they were taking out a metallic filling at the dentist, something I wouldn’t figure out until years later. About a month after, I felt horrible. I was practicing yoga one day and I couldn’t lift my arms. I went to bed not feeling well and I felt ill for almost three months. Mercury poisioning from dental fillings is a very controversial issue, but I have not been exposed to mercury in any other aspect of my life.
What happened when you went to a doctor?
They ran some tests and said I was clinically fine. I kept asking, “How can I be fine when I could barely grip the wheel while driving in my car?” They wrote it off as something psychological. I went to multiple doctors and eventually had to go on worker's leave without a specific diagnosis.
How long did it take for you to find out these symptoms were being caused by mercury poisoning?
I went three years without knowing what was causing my body to act like this. After a year of the onset of the symptoms, I developed another condition where I had an overgrowth of candida, which is a type of fungus, growing in my intestines. I would later do some research and find out that some people who develop this condition also had mercury poisoning. In my frustration, I eventually sent a hair sample to a specialized clinic in the United States. I received a response saying I tested positive for mercury poising and should seek treatment.
Why is this condition so difficult for a doctor to diagnose?
Mercury is absorbed deep into the organ tissues and cells. You won't generally find it in the blood stream so it will not show up on a blood test. If it doesn’t show up on the results, it's as if it doesn’t exist. When the test came back positive, I started receiving specialized treatment at a clinic in Madrid.
How are you feeling now that you have begun treatment?
I feel much better, but I'm not perfect. I still don't have as much energy as before. Sometimes I still get dizzy or I don't feel well. Bit by bit, I am getting there. The entire time of my illness, I’ve learned to listen to my body and the signals it is trying to give me.
How long does treatment for something like this last?
In regards to heavy metal poisoning, it is dependent mostly on a few factors such as the amount of exposure and how long before you seek treatment. In my case, we caught it fairly early. I have seen other individuals who were much worse off, for example with extreme nerve damage.
What did you find most frustrating about this ordeal?
I understand that all science has its limitations. I was surprised at how little sometimes doctors would listen. I had to figure out these things out all my own. I sometimes feel that certain doctors would become frustrated when I would come in with information about possible conditions. Of course I am going to inform myself. I am the one who every three months has to be stuck in bed. I don't want to live my life that. Medicine is a profession to help people, you need to look beyond your paper and realize a person is coming to you because they have a problem. Don't immediately dismiss my issue just because you may be unfamiliar with it.
How did you friends and family cope?
There is a moment that stands out in my head. One day, my mother had to carry me to the bathroom because I wasn't capable of doing it on my own. I couldn't, I just couldn't. I didn't have the strength. As you can imagine, it was a major blow to my pride. It was very difficult for my family, they just kept telling me to get better even though we didn’t know what was wrong.
So how has your outlook on life changed?
It was and still a very difficult journey. I felt like I had control over my life and it changed it what seemed like an instant. You change, you adapt, and somehow, you have to find the ability to go on. I'm a fighter, I have always been. This experience has been humbling, I had to learn that there are moments where I have to strive and push forward. There are others where I have to rest. Some days I can’t do anymore than that.
So after all this, how did you meet Shimada?
I live in the area and I passed by his salon a few times. One day, I noticed that he uses Paul Mitchell products. I like them because they don't do animal testing. I first bought them when I was in Germany, but I have found it very difficult to find their products in Spain. One day I went to get a haircut, and I really liked it. So now he is my hairdresser. That was about a year ago.
How did you get involved in the La Modelo del Mes project?
I've seen the previous models in Shimada's salon. I thought about asking him but I was so worried he would tell me “no” that I didn’t dare ask. One day, he asked if I had any stories that would be interesting to readers. I told him about the hardships I have had due to mercury poisoning. He was so interested in my story that he asked me to be a model and share it.
Did you find becoming a model intimidating?
I was pretty confident about the whole experience. I know Shimada has been doing this for many years and I was delighted just to do it. When he was doing hair and makeup, I wasn't sure what he was doing. I trusted he would do it well. I was curious though to see how it would all come together.
How long did it take to get you ready?
I think the first style took two hours and the second style about two hours as well. It was a long day, but my excitement kept me going. I am persistent so when I do something, I like to do the best I can. The day went by so quickly. Walking through the streets, some people thought I was a professional so I acted like a professional. I'm a model, even if only for a day.
How would you describe the two “looks” he gave you?
Well, he did two styles. The first one was a little wild, kind of grunge while the other was more elegant. One felt younger and the other felt more adult. The first reminds me of when I was younger and the second reminds me of how I am now.
Anything that surprised you?
I surprised myself. I saw myself as seductive, but without forcing it. While I see my younger self in the photos, I don't think I would have been able to do this when I was younger. Overall, the results are great and I've shown them to everyone. Some people have thought I picked up modeling amidst the Spanish crisis.
Be authentic! We are accustomed to seeing a stereotype of a beauty. Really, what is interesting about an image is that it is authentic.. There are many people, who may not be models, and still have a lot to offer- I feel authenticity isn't something you see as much anymore. We try to make so many changes to ourselves, which is a shame. While many different aspects of myself are emphasized, I still feel like I can see an authentic version of me.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the contributing authors and those interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the views of Shimada Kemp: Peluquero y estilista.