Bella Hadid opens up about her Lyme disease battle: 'My teenage years were taken from me'
Bella Hadid is brave and beautiful.
The 20-year-old model, who is battling Lyme disease, was honored at the Global Lyme Alliance's second annual "Uniting for a Lyme-Free World" gala on Thursday at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City for her work with the organization and her role in driving awareness for the crippling effects of the tick-borne illness.
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Bella looked stunning at the event, donning a strapless lace top, which she paired with high-waisted black pants, a matching blazer, stilettos and diamond accessories.
She was joined by her proud parents, Yolanda and Mohamed Hadid, who were also clad in all-black ensembles.
Inside the venue, Yolanda took the stage to kick off the night with a powerful speech. "It's hard for people to understand the invisible disability that owns our life, especially behind the beautiful face that shines so bright on the covers of magazines," she exclaimed, before introducing her daughter. "Every mother here today understands the hopelessness that comes when nurturing your child that battles a disease without a cure."
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"I am so grateful and proud of my daughter Bella for understanding the higher purpose of her journey and speaking openly about her journey in order to bring awareness for the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who suffer just like she does but whose voices cannot be heard," she continued. "I promise you I will find a cure. And I thank you so much for standing up for what's right and for joining us in a fight for a Lyme-free world. And, my love, just remember you are not alone."
Bella echoed her mom's statements, telling the crowd, "Life isn't always what it looks like on the outside, and the hardest part of this journey is to be judged by the way you look instead of the way you feel."
She dedicated the award to "all the teenagers out there that have really gone through what I'm going through and have suffered from this disease without an end in sight," as seen in a video posted on her dad's Instagram.
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"I know where you're coming from, you're not alone," Bella added. "My teenage years were taken from me. I was forced to start homeschooling my second year of high school, which of course I didn't want to do because I'd rather go hang out with my friends, go to parties."
She also revealed that due to the illness, she was forced to give up her favorite hobby: horseback riding.
"It was my dream of my life and what I did every single day until I just stopped and realized I didn't have the brain power to ride horses anymore, so that was the end of that," Bella explained. "I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed from bone pains and exhaustion and days on end of not wanting to socialize or be around people because the anxiety and brain fog just isn't worth it. After years of this, you begin to get used to living with the sickness, instead of getting cured and moving on with your life."
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Yolanda later took to Instagram to praise Bella for her courage, writing, "Uniting for a Lyme free world..... I am so proud of my baby girl for sharing her journey and the invisible disability of Lyme disease in order to raise awareness."
Mohamed also gushed over Bella's "amazing speech," captioning a pic of the two, "Supporting my baby bella. Getting honored .. Global Lyme Alliance. So proud of her."
"Looking up to and admiring this young Lady," another one of his caption's read. "Love you Bella."
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Global Lyme Alliance raised nearly $3 million at the start-studded event, which also honored Heather Glass, Arthur J. Mirante II and Karen Peetz.
At last year's gala, Yolanda opened up about her own struggles with Lyme disease, and revealed for the first time that Bella, as well as her 17-year-old son, Anwar, had also contracted the illness.
"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star told Good Day New York on Tuesday that Bella has been "struggling" with Lyme.
"It's hard to imagine that this beautiful bright light on the cover of magazines could struggle the way that she does," she said. "She's always tired. She could sleep for 10 hours and wake up [and say], 'I'm still tired.' In the younger generation, it comes up like anxiety, severe exhaustion, joint pain, flu-like symptoms and they just keep struggling over it."
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