Jokiva Bellard is covered with burn-like lesions on her face, hands, and body. She’s a regular at her local A&E, needing frequent care to treat lupus, the debilitating autoimmune disease that attacks the healthy tissue in her body.
But she isn’t letting that hold her back. And the scars and blisters caused by her lupus don’t stop her from being beautiful.
At 23 years old, Jokiva is a body positive activist and model inspiring people to love themselves. She shares photos of herself along with inspiring messages to motivate people to show themselves some kindness, and to accept and embrace their skin.
Jokiva first started to notice blisters forming across her cheeks and neck when she was just 18. She went to the doctors, who believed she was struggling with eczema.
A few months later, things worsened.
‘In the beginning it wasn’t that bad, it was just a rash and joint pain, and then it accelerated,’ says Jokiva. ‘My skin would peel, I’d get blisters, it ended up to a point where I couldn’t even open my eyes and I couldn’t breathe.’
When lupus prevented her from seeing and breathing, Jokiva went to the hospital, where she was finally diagnosed with lupus – the same disease her mother faces.
Along with blisters and lesions, lupus makes Jokiva incredibly sensitive to sunlight. If she ever wants to leave the house she must cover up or wear sunscreen to prevent an outbreak.
‘I was originally misdiagnosed with eczema after I started developing rashes at 18,’ says the model.
‘But the flare ups started to become more regular, my face was so red and covered in angry blisters that I didn’t feel confident enough to go outside.
‘A few months later I had to go to hospital due to kidney failure, then I was informed that I had lupus and things just went downhill from there.
‘I struggled to eat, drink, walk, and even sleep. My bed would be covered in sweat every morning and my skin became so red and blistered.’
Jokiva went through chemotherapy to try to help her immune system, and now takes 21 pills a day to prevent an outbreak. She’s often tired and in pain – but she refuses to let that hold her back.
‘Lupus takes its toll, but it brings you to appreciate life more,’ says Jokiva.
She explains that despite negative comments on her appearance – ‘I even had someone call me a crackhead’ – she loves the way she looks, and wants to continue to model and share her experiences on social media to raise awareness of lupus and inspire everyone to love themselves.
‘Body positivity is loving the skin you’re in,’ she says.
‘I could be that girl that influences other people that they’re beautiful. Why can’t I be that girl? Why can’t I show my rash beautifully? Why can’t I show my battle scars?
‘I have dealt with many negative comments online. I had one that said “you should kill yourself”.
‘In this generation we don’t have self-love – we’re so busy putting each other down that we forget that we need to be able to love ourselves so we can love others.