Bullied woman unable to smile due to rare condition becomes Instagram star
A woman who was born with a very rare condition is totally unable to smile – but she’s become an Instagram star despite her one-in-four million disorder.
Tayla Clement, 24, from New Zealand, has spent her whole life without the ability to move her eyes from left to right, raise her eyebrows or move her upper lip due to Moebius syndrome.
The unusual condition is characterised by the weakening or paralysis of muscles in the face which control expressions and eye movements and Tayla also has a club foot and limited ankle movement. Tayla was born with the neurological disorder which has no cure although symptoms can be treated.
The young influencer, who now has more than 18,000 followers, said: “It’s not always been easy. I’ve spent many years hating my smile, wishing I had a 'normal' smile, wishing I just didn’t exist because that seemed easier than being alive, but by some miracle, I’m still here.
"I was born to make a difference in this world and I know that whole-heartedly.
"My syndrome and not being able to smile is the greatest gift I could have ever been given, it has allowed me to already help and inspire so many people."
Tayla had reanimation surgery at 12 in the hopes of giving her more movement in her face.
The procedure, called a “smile operation”, transplants soft tissue from her thighs into her face hoping it would give her the ability to clench her jaw, but it was unsuccessful.
And, the influencer revealed that she had been bullied for her condition eventually leading to diagnoses of severe clinical depression and anxiety with PTSD and dissociative attacks at the age of 18.
Tayla said: "Things really began to get worse. I had to go back and start a new school with a really swollen face.
"I got laughed at. Kids would scream in my face and say that they were scared of me but then would run away laughing, I felt super isolated.
"Then people started to pretend they didn't know me.”
Tayla lied to her mum about the bullying and isolation because she didn’t want to burden them – and people would try and discourage others from befriending her and would say she was disgusting.
She said: "After you get told that a couple of times it gets drilled into your memory. Even the teachers treated me differently.
"I would be the only person with my hand up in class and the teacher would just look at me and then look away and not pick me to ask a question.
"The list goes on but I also had sheep poo thrown at me, would be rushed down hills, have my bag emptied on the floor. Everything that happened did play a lot on my self-confidence and my self-worth."
After years of maltreatment, six suicide attempts and hospitalisations Tayla discovered exercise could be used to cope.
Tayla took the plunge back into fitness when she was contacted by Para-Athletics NZ – in 2018 she was asked to compete in Melbourne and set a #1 ranking shot put throw at the Victorian State Championships in Melbourne.
A year later in March of 2019 competed at NZ Nationals and threw a distance of 8.28m, which broke the World Record in the F43 classification. Now retired from sport, she tracks her journey on Instagram.
Tayla added: "I stand very firm on the fact that the operation not being successful was 100% a blessing and I’m so grateful for the operation not working because not being able to smile is the greatest gift I could have ever been given!
"Yes, it's taken me right down to below rock bottom but it has given me the opportunity to be a face and voice of hope and inspiration for others.
"It has given me a platform to share my story to empower others and ultimately, given me a purpose for being on this earth.
"When I was going through my really high points and really low points I didn't have anyone to look up to.
"I didn't have anywhere to go to be inspired or listen to other people's problems or hear them talking about what they had been through so openly.
“If I had I might have realised I'm not the only person going through that. To be a source of inspiration, empowerment and hope for others is so amazing.
"I truly believe everything happens for a reason, whether it be good, bad, or in between.”
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