Cassandra Bankson: Role Model
Like many of her peers, 20-year-old Cassandra Bankson has a penchant for makeup. Except when she puts on foundation, mascara and employs a beauty trick or two, she does it for millions of people.
Over the past two years, the 6-foot-tall curly haired beauty has become an Internet sensation for sharing her battle with severe cystic acne alongside her makeup tips. Under the handle DiamondsandHeels14, the Danville resident films makeup tutorials on creating flawless skin with concealers, shadows and brushes of all types. Bankson's YouTube channel has more than 300,000 subscribers, her videos have received over 44 million hits, and she often receives comments on her positivity, looks and humble attitude.
"It's kind of mind-boggling and I haven't wrapped my head around it," Bankson said of her success.
Bankson was bullied so severely during middle and high school that she dropped out of San Ramon Valley High to do private study and graduated two years early. The bullying had enough of a traumatic effect that Bankson felt she couldn't be seen without makeup and she soon began researching and perfecting flawless-looking skin.
"I didn't have to be around other students but I completely reclused myself. I didn't hang out with friends. I didn't go outside. I was completely homebound because I was afraid," she said. "When you go on YouTube, you see beautiful, perfect girls with perfect skin, that wasn't where I was at."
At the behest of her boyfriend, Bankson made her first video on creating clear-looking skin with foundation in November 2010 but didn't visit YouTube for months because she was nervous about the response.
"I came back expecting all this hate; it was like a new side of humanity for me. The people who haven't known me since birth could actually like me," she said. "They wrote, 'You're brave, you helped me in some way.' (My fans are) really my support system and that's how I started filming videos regularly."
After making the first video, Bankson began doing print modeling and continued to gain self-confidence that she could pass on to her YouTube followers. The acne-plagued teen took her upbeat attitude for a walk at designer Stacey Igel's "Boy Meets Girl" show during New York's fashion week and even appeared on the "Today Show."
"Models are beautiful and perfect and successful and those are all things I never considered myself or thought I could be," Bankson said. "I thought, if you can model and be this confident with makeup, why don't you show other girls in the same situation what they can do?"
As her modeling career and fan base grew, Bankson began discussing life lessons, fashion, stress and, of course, makeup on YouTube. Viewers will also give Bankson advice, creating a "social interaction that everyone values."
"We're connecting like you would talk to a best friend. There are some people who said they ... were shutting down, blocking people out and it's great that they can use this makeup to help them. They can actually feel confident going out," she said.
As a result of her growing fame and openness, Bankson was invited to speak at a European dermatologist conference on behalf of all patients. Although dermatologists can improve acne, they often don't know what the patient feels or how to treat the whole issue, she noted.
Bnkson said she hopes to become a dermatologist and use her personal experience to help treat and connect with patients. Although she still battles acne and sadness, Bankson said she is appreciative of the lows she once hit because she can now appreciate the highs in life.
I was dealing with self worth with different crutches; I was dealing with makeup so I didn't have to deal with acne, then modeling," she said. "Eventually I got through it somehow. And having the support of my family, my boyfriend and people online is what got me through it completely and kept me positive."
Bankson encouraged men and women with acne and depression to seek out support networks and said even models that seem flawless have problems to overcome.
"We can still be proud of ourselves even with our flaws, even if we have to cover them up sometimes. There's more to you than just your face," she said.
* Cassandra is involved in several anti-bullying organizations, including Bully Bust and the National School Climate Association, where she was recently honored.
* After graduating from high school early, Cassandra studied to be an esthetician. Although she put those plans on hold, she is only 50 hours away from completing her credential.
* Having noticed that some modeling agencies take advantage of their clients, Cassandra briefly ran Cassandra Bankson Talent, a nonprofit to help aspiring models not get taken advantage of, financially or physically.
* Have stretch marks you'd like to see disappear? Treat reddish or white marks with olive oil, Vitamin E oil or Vitamin C oil to produce collagen and improve skin elasticity. You can also take Omega 3 or Vitamin E as a supplement.
* Picking pimples can cause scaring and induce bacteria into the skin. Cassandra's advice to quit picking includes wearing makeup or moisturizer, getting your nails done professionally or cutting them short and keeping your hands busy to avoid compulsive picking.
* For flawless skin, use an anti-shine serum to absorb oil, a skin primer, then your choice of foundation. Set foundation with powder and make sure to carry everything down the neck for consistent tone.