People in the entertainment industry, deserved or not, are perceived to be obsessed with appearance, quick to resort to any or all available means to minimize or eliminate any perceived flaw. Dancer Cassandra Naud, however, refreshingly stands out from this commonly held outlook in the entertainment business, especially considering her unique appearance.
Cassandra's Early Years
Born in the Canadian province of Alberta, Cassandra was born with a condition called hypertrichosis causing excessive hair growth on certain parts of her body. Her condition also caused a sizable birthmark on her face, which covered most of her right cheek. Plastic surgery was an option, but since the birthmark went several layers deep into her skin, the potential side effects included the possibility of severe scarring or amblyopia, also known as a “lazy eye”. Her parents Richard and France decided against removal, fearing that the side effects were just not worth the risk.
Not surprisingly, as Cassandra reached school age the birthmark made her a prime target for the taunts and ridicule of bullies. While she tried to ignore the hostility, Cassandra feared that things would only get worse once she entered high school. Weary and despairing of ever fitting in with "normal" kids, at age 13 she told her parents she wanted to have the birthmark removed.
Although Richard and France originally decided against removing the birthmark when she was born, they were sympathetic to the playground taunts she had been suffering through and scheduled an appointment with a plastic surgeon. The doctor patiently explained the risks just as they were described to her parents 13 years earlier.
Cassandra immediately decided against the procedure. Not long after the meeting with the surgeon, she told her mother that she actually preferred keeping the birthmark because she realized that it was a part of her individuality, a unique characteristic that separated her from others that she now recognized in a positive light. It’s a decision she has not regretted ever since.
After graduating from high school, Cassandra entered the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, where she studied Dance Theater. She starred in a production of the classic musical Cabaret before graduating in July 2014, remaining in Los Angeles to pursue a career as a professional dancer.
Personal and Professional Success
Cassandra's birthmark takes nothing away from her dark-haired beauty, beaming smile and stunning figure. However, there were still some people in her professional life who tried to dissuade her from keeping her unique feature. Early in her career, an agent recommended that she have the birthmark “Photoshopped out” of her headshots, photos commonly used by performers, actors and entertainers for casting purposes. Cassandra agreed at first, not wanting to appear difficult. However, she drew on the same strength she had as a youngster and ultimately decided against altering her headshots and removing the appearance of her birthmark.
Cassandra now believes that her birthmark has given her a professional advantage, making her stand out and be memorable to producers and directors. She went on an audition where a director, while he really loved her look, said that she “just wasn't quite right” for that particular job. He hired her for another job very soon thereafter. Cassandra's work has included a part alongside Maroon 5 in a promotion for sports channel ESPN and appearances on the popular children’s network Nickelodeon.
Cassandra's personal life has also thrived. She met her 21-year-old boyfriend Patrick Cook, a fellow dancer, during an audition in Los Angeles and they have been together for eight months. Her parents continue to support her in her chosen profession as well as every other aspect of her life.
Changing Face of Beauty
The dancer has a message she wants to share with others, as she urges people to "appreciate their individuality." Cassandra goes on to say, "Times are changing, so don't worry about looking normal." She shares wisdom and encouragement with her 19,000 Instagram followers, using hashtags like #BeautyRebel and #InMySkinIWin.
Thanks to women like Cassandra standards of beauty are becoming less narrowly defined and individuality is seen as something to be celebrated, not hidden. Embracing the features that make you unique takes strength but can be daunting, especially for young people growing up who are simply trying to fit in. The road to empowerment is never easy, but undoubtedly, can be realized one step at a time by embracing our individuality.