CAF Board Exec Maria Hadjidemetriou Represents Thalassemia Community in Maybelline Campaign

Maria Hadjidemetriou is the woman who does it all. She’s a mother, writer, New York City-based real estate sales agent, Executive Board Member for the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation (currently serving as Secretary of the Board), Expert Patient Advisor for the Thalassemia International Federation (TIF), patients’ rights advocate and international speaker, documentary filmmaker, and as of this month, a Maybelline campaign star.

Maria grew up at the height of the supermodel era: Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and the like. For the first time in fashion history, models became celebrities in their own right. Their statuesque figures and flawless faces flooded every aspect of pop culture by the early ’90s. From features in George Michael music videos, guest spots on family sitcoms like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, to covers of Seventeen, the supermodels’ influence was inescapable.

Like many, Maria felt pressured to emulate their looks. But unlike many, Maria has thalassemia, which added layers of complexity to her quest for perfection. Sure, the biweekly blood transfusions and countless hospital stays shaped her into a tenacious fighter, but even champions aren’t immune to insecurities. Maria never saw anyone who looked like her in the shows she watched or magazines she flipped through, which reinforced her insecurities and feelings of isolation. Consequently, she spent a lot of time hiding thalassemia’s visible side effects; she covered her jaundiced complexion with a rosy Maybelline blush, and concealed surgical scarring with one-piece bathing suits.

“If I’d seen representation of thalassemia and women with disabilities in the media while growing up, I wouldn’t have felt such pressure to try to be perfect. We all have some flaws—that’s what makes us uniquely beautiful—but it took some time to learn and believe that.”

She’s not exaggerating. Maria was 30 years old when she finally won the battle against her insecurities and donned a two-piece swimsuit.

“It took me years to feel confident enough to wear a bikini. I was embarrassed of the two huge scars on my stomach from having surgery on my spleen and gallbladder due to organ failure. I finally wore my first two-piece—a red-hot, sexy bikini— while I was in Mykonos, Greece! I felt so comfortable wearing it, too,” she said.

When Maybelline, the iconic beauty brand behind Maria’s first blush, invited her to star in their “We Speak” disability pride campaign, she seized the opportunity to become the very thing she longed to see as a child—a model proudly representing the thalassemia community.

Behind-the-Scenes of Maybelline’s “We Speak” Campaign Shoot

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